Proclaiming the Gospel

Growing up, I was always a self-proclaimed goody-two-shoes. I rarely did anything wrong. I followed the rules. I never rebelled. I defended my faith and brought my Bible to school to show just how serious about my faith I was. I was your classic good Christian girl.

While this is wonderful, it took me a long time to see just how lost this world is, but how genuinely human my neighbor is, regardless of their faith or knowledge of Christ. The topic of how to approach nonbelievers has been one that is on my heart a lot lately. I have seen far too many Christians build up walls around our churches, judging newcomers and young Christians by their sins instead of getting to know them personally. But I feel that Jesus has been shifting my views a little, allowing me to see a generation, however selfie-obsessed, that is broken and in need of the knowledge of the love and grace that only Jesus can give.

I am not alone in this. Many growing churches today have the same mindset — we live in a world that needs Jesus, so let us show Him to them. Sometimes, the mindset can be viewed as a watered-down Gospel. Many Christians feel that love is taught too freely and sin is not taught enough. I believe that sin should be pointed out among Christians, but that love cannot be given to freely.

I recently watched an interview with Carl Lentz on The View that had many Christians angry. He did not point out that abortion is a sin on national television.

From the very beginning, they introduced Carl Lentz as a pastor “unlike anything I’ve ever seen” and then went straight for hot button topics like same-sex marriage and abortion. It’s The View, so controversial topics are not unexpected, but it really looked like they were asking not out of genuine interest but to stir up something. Immediately, I got uncomfortable — not from the question, but from the motives. He got uncomfortable too, and refused to give a straight answer when asked if abortion was a sin. I quote, “I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, find out their story; before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”

I thought about those words — similar words to what I had told my husband only days before. If you don’t know Jesus, I want to get to know you and point you to Him. I do not want to look at you and point out your sins. This is not my job.

In fact, my job as a Christian is laid out in Mark 16:15 – “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” – and in Matthew 28:19-20 – “ Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Firstly, the word “gospel” literally means “good news.” The good news is NOT that you have sinned but that the God of all creation has loved you so much that He sent his only Son into the world as a baby for the sole purpose of dying one day all for you. Because you matter.
Secondly, I don’t think that the order in which Jesus speaks in Matthew 28 is an accident; in order to make disciples of all nations, first we must baptize and then we must teach. First we must lead them to Jesus and then we must teach them His ways.

I talked about this a few posts back in No Place in Heaven; that there had to be a better way to approach nonbelievers than telling them that God hates sin and that they have sinned. This could not be the gospel that Jesus was talking about in Mark 16:15. That could not have been what He meant.

Recently, I read in 1 Corinthians 5 about sin in the church. Specifically, Paul had received reports that there was a case of sexual immorality in the church, something that is so obviously sin, even pagans did not practice it. He rebuked this sin specifically and said there was no place for it in the church. But he also touched on sin outside of the church and said,

 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

The more I read my Bible and how Christians are to ask, the less I am compelled to point out that my neighbors who do not know Christ are actually sinners by a standard they do not understand. The more I think about Jesus, the more I want to let people know that he was a radical in this time and would likely be considered a radical in the church today. He ate with sinners. He refused to cast stones at an adulteress. He gave the good news about the living water he offered to another adulteress who wasn’t even Jewish. He was touched by a woman who was ceremoniously unclean and did not rebuke her. He loved the unlovable and the pharisees scoffed at him.

Five years ago, I was pregnant with my first son. I was not prepared for him. I wanted kids, but not yet. I was only four months married when I found out about my son. It was not the first year of marriage I had always imagined. I knew, though, that God had given my my son at that time for a reason. As life goes on, I am realizing more reasons for all of it. One thing God did in me at that time was give me compassion for the girl who chooses abortion.

I was always pro-life and will always be pro-life. I wrote about it a little here. There were facts I had always known from research that supported the ideology that a fetus is actually a life. And yet, five years ago, I felt scared and ashamed to be pregnant. I never considered ending my pregnancy, but I realized how people could. The life growing inside of me was something permanent that I would have to care for when I was only learning how to be an adult myself. I could not see past my current situation, and my current situation certainly did not allow for a child.

My heart melted the day that I saw my “little gummy bear” dancing on the screen during my 9-week ultrasound. I knew the scientific facts about how babies grew in the womb. But to see my baby, only an inch long, dancing and jumping, made everything that much more real.

If I had chosen to end my pregnancy, I never would have seen that ultrasound. I never would have actually seen the life inside of me. You could have told me about it, but I would not have known. I could not have pictured it. If I had chosen to have an abortion, that guilt would have stayed with me, as I have heard from many women who have had abortions out of fear from their current circumstances. Every birth date that would have passed would have been a reminder that the baby I never had was not with me.

You see, many women who choose abortion do not do it out of spite or callousness. They have so many different reasons. And many genuinely do not see the fetus as a life and therefore have no reason to call it murder. Do you not see why a Christian who claims the love of Jesus above all does not want to call it sin on national TV? Do you not realize how many broken women there were watching that morning needing to not hear that there choice from years ago, months ago, or the day before was simply a “sin”? And could you not imagine the backlash that a Christian man would have gotten for calling all these women sinners?

The world does not need to hear right now that it is in sin. In the midst of all that is going on in these weeks alone, we need to hear that there is a God who loves us, a God who wants to be with us, a God who thought that we we worth His death on the Cross.

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Trivial Arguments Among Christians

Joshua came to me crying for the fifth time the other day. Ethan had pulled his hair. Again. They were fighting over some toy and Ethan, being the toddler that he is, was determined to get his way the only way he knew how: going for Joshua’s beautiful curls.

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Just look at that hair!

As their mom, I am starting to get annoyed by all these small fights. I sometimes wish they would be able to get through a day without a trivial fight. My joy is that these fights do not define their relationship and that, in spite of these moments, they are best friends; if this were not the case, I know my heart would be broken to see the two boys I love more than anything in the world not get along.

We, as Christians, are unified under the blood of Christ and are all welcomed into the House of God as His children. I have witnessed many (and have been involved in several) arguments over trivial issues in my life as a Christian. Sometimes, I wonder if God is annoyed by our fighting or if we’ve gone right to breaking His heart whenever we prolong an argument about who is right in the faith.

I wanted to write an entire piece on this subject, but sometimes, all you need is a chapter from the Bible and no additional commentary is necessary. This is part of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I think that he covered everything that that, if you’ve ever witnessed or have been a part of any such argument, there’s something in here for you to think about.

Romans 14

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

No Place in Heaven

There’s no place in Heaven for someone like me.

Because I am a sinner. I’ve lied (Lev. 19:11), I’ve been proud, I’ve been lazy, I’m addicted to chocolate and potato chips (Proverbs 6:16-19), I’ve been angry and held grudges, and I’ve insulted people (Matthew 5:21-26). I am a sinner (Romans 3:23) and there is no room in Heaven for sin (Rev. 21:27).

And yet, I know I will get to Heaven (Acts 2:21). It is not of my doing, but because Jesus loved me so much that He was willing to leave His place in Heaven to come as a baby, grow in the world and walk this earth, die and rise again, all so that I could have a place in Heaven with Him. He has saved me by His grace.

I named this post after a song I recently heard, by an artist I really like. I love a good portion his music, although I am saddened by some of his lyrics and his skewed views on theology. But my heart really fell when I heard his song about being gay and begging God to love him in spite of it.

Listening to the words was sobering. My mind raced around the ideas and words and beliefs regarding Christianity and homosexuality. It skipped past protesters who picketed, holding signs of “God hates gays” (He doesn’t) and went straight to the commonly heard phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner” (Jude 23).

Let me be clear: all types of sexual immorality is sin (1 Cor. 6:12-18). It is important, as Christians, to not forget that sin is real and it separates us from Christ — it is the entire reason Christ came to the world at all.

And yet, I feel like we got it all wrong. I feel like I got it all wrong.

When we, as Christians, single out homosexuality as a sin, we act as if it is a greater sin than anything else. Why does no one call out liars, claiming that the liars are loved, but the lies aren’t? I’ve even seen more compassion for murderers than for homosexuals. So, how is a person supposed to feel when he is told that his identity is a sin? How can he not feel that he is beyond saving, beyond grace?

The Nashville Statement came out recently. (I am not against it nor condemning it. I think it is necessary for the church to defend its statutes when politics start to interfere with freedom of religion.) How must a person feel to know that out of every possible sin, there was a separate doctrine written only about himself and people like him? When you are personally hurt by people who claim to love the most compassionate Man to ever walk this planet, how could you interpret it as anything but condemnation?

I think we as Christians need to be more empathetic and more willing to show the love of Jesus. We are doing no one a favor when we blindly call out sin into an already hurting world.

As a Christian, I don’t ever want to be the one to tell you there is no place in Heaven for someone like you. But if you feel that way, come to Jesus. Let Him love you. Try Him and let Him do whatever He needs to do with you.

There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

Losing Someone I Didn’t Know I Loved

It’s been four months today since I lost my dad. Two more of these, and it’ll be a year.

I had a dream about him last night, the first one in a long time, the first one where I actually spoke to him.

He was tired, in a wheelchair, and we were in my church. I was telling him about how he was going to get better, about all the plans I had for the coming months. He could barely stay awake, but he told me he didn’t have the strength. I begged him to at least wait until my brother and sons came, so he could tell them, but he just shook his head. I looked at him, I embraced him, and with tears all over my face and tears on his, I gave him a kiss, and said “I love you so much.” I said it a few times. And then I told him it was OK to go, and he did. I walked into the sanctuary to meet my husband there, filled with grief and peace, recalling that I had felt the same way last time I said bye to him.

The dream opened up wounds that had been healing over the past few months. I woke this morning, crying. I got to hug my dad. I got to tell him I love him.

I never really got that in real life. I didn’t even know I love him.

Years of hurt turned to bitterness in our relationship. I couldn’t even give you details, because I really don’t remember any. The bitterness overcame my heart and my relationship with him. Even when I wanted to be loving to him, I found it nearly impossible. I simply didn’t know how to approach him.

He was diagnosed with cirrhosis in February of this year. I knew it was a natural consequence to an addiction he had (he took his last drink that month). But, still, I was hopeful that things would change, that we can work with what he had, that I can cook healthier meals for him, that he could grow stronger, and possibly have a liver transplant right around this time.

That’s why I never really worried about his worsening jaundice. I knew his condition. I just figured

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we would emphasize more whole foods and cut out all the stuff that his liver couldn’t process.

He went into the hospital on April 14. One week later, he was officially diagnosed with cancer. I knew he didn’t have long and was sad, especially for my boys, who loved their Abuelo, but I still had hope that we could have one last family barbecue, one last trip to the beach, that he could enjoy his final weeks and months in the presence of his family.

 

He took his final breath less than a week later, in the bed where I attempted to hug him the night before. I told him I loved him, I gave him a kiss, but his body was already unresponsive. I can only hope he knew how loved he was.

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The initial grief and peace I felt matched what I felt in the dream. Grief, because I had just said goodbye. Peace because he was in no more pain.

But the hardest thing I’ve had to learn in the following weeks was just how much I loved him. I never knew while he was here on this earth. I never showed him. 

And it sucks to realize how much you love your own father only after he dies.

Four months later, and life has a new normal. I still think about him. Sometimes, in the back of my mind, I think he’s in his room or in the garage. I still see him clearly in my mind. Most days are not hard. Most days are not like today, when my grief feels fresh. And yet, I don’t mind these days, because they validate my love for him, even if it is too late.

I write this for me. But I also write this for you — don’t wait until you lose someone to realize that you love them. Realize it now.

 

A Timely History Lesson

I had an exam the other day which warranted a lot of studying on my part. I mean, I have never in my life studied for any test like I did for this one. Mostly, I studied history.

I had never liked social studies or history too much during my school years. There were some years, I thought it was pretty OK, usually thanks to a good teacher. Most of the time, though, I struggled to remember what I had to learn for tests and I didn’t do too well. It was usually my worst subject every year.

So, I needed to study. And as I studied, I became enthralled by what I read and watched. I saw history in a new light — not as a series of facts I need to know for a test, but as a series of events that led to the world today. But, being enthralled doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoyed all that I had re-learned. There were some things that made me angry and disheartened — things that made me want to go back in time and ask people why on earth they thought that way.

In 1619, the first slaves from Africa set foot on American soil, and from that point, slavery stayed in the US for almost two and a half centuries. Between 1619 and today, slavery was a norm in the south and some other states for 61.8% of that time. Yet, that isn’t what made me angry. The anger that I felt stirring in my heart was from Christian slave-owners.

Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America actually said, “[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.”

How could people actually believe that God was totally OK with it if you took ownership of someone else and treated them as less than human? Did these people actually believe in Jesus Christ? Do they not know He died for everybody? Whatever happened to loving your neighbor as yourself?

It hurts my soul to think about a time when slavery was prevalent. It hurts me to know that slaves were “people of color” — that, based on the color of their skin, their destiny in this life was decided by someone who bought them from someone else. It bothers me to my core to see that slave-owners actually treated slaves as less than people based on the amount of melanin in their skin.

And then came the Three-Fifths Compromise, the one time when slave-owners felt their slaves should be counted as people, and the non-slaveowners up north turned their cheek and insisted that they should not be part of the population. So, in came the compromise: every black slave will count for 3/5 of a white person.

Every black slave will be considered 60% human.

Somehow, for me, there’s a difference between being treated poorly by your owner and having the national government declare that you’re 40% less human than your owner — the one who doesn’t even believe in your humanity.

For anyone who knows American history, there was eventually a war. The southern states did not appreciate Abraham Lincoln’s stance on slavery and keeping it out of new territories and seceded from the union, which caused a civil war — the outcome of which was slaves being abolished.

I’d like to think we’ve come a long way since then. I’m not naive enough to say that racism doesn’t exist. But, I feel like pro-slavery activists then were victims of groupthink (the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility) — deep down, they knew that their treatment of other people was wrong, but everybody else was doing it, so their judgment was clouded (this is my opinion — not stating this as a fact).

I know desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement didn’t come about until almost an entire century passed after slavery was abolished. I know that this is still recent in the light of things.

But most people, most people, aren’t so bold as to think that people of color are less than human. Right?!?

And then I saw the news about what happened on Saturday Night, an attack by white nationalists after a rally which started with the planned removal of the statue of the Confederate general from the Civil War — the one that was lost by confederates over 150 years ago.

I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why people want to still honor a man who lost a war for a very good reason. I don’t get why people who weren’t there for the war could get so worked up about it. I don’t know how people in the twenty-first century can actually think they are above another person simply because of their skin color. I don’t know how people can be so evil today. This is stuff I read about in my history books. This is all over and done with. We know better now.

Yet, sin remains in this world, unleashed, launching its attack on every one of us in different ways. It’s why I can’t let my first reaction — one of anger and even hatred towards the people who committed this violence — dictate my actions. It’s why I have to surrender the human emotions that I have right now, however righteous they feel. Christ is the only One who can cancel sin.

Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

Lastly, I pray that no one is made to feel like 3/5 of a human. One hundred percent is made in the image of my God (Genesis 1:27). Jesus loves every single part of you; He died for your entire being (John 15:13).

The Sacrifice and Selflessness of Motherhood

I just read an article called “Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness.

Yeah…

It was enough to make me break my silence here and feel the insatiable need to write.

Here’s the definition for selfishness: “devoted to caring only for oneself, concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.” Yup, sounds like every mom I know.

I’m not saying that there aren’t any selfish moments in motherhood. Right now, for example, I am being selfish. I am ignoring what is going on with the boys and the house and my husband so I could sit down and write this response. I am being selfish in that I only care what is going on within this two-foot radius and purposely blocking out anything else for the sake of my own interest, which just so happens to be rebutting (with the occasional snark) the article I just read. Yes, I realize the irony.

But I digress.

The author refers to a phone call she had with her own mom about taking her sons, ages 7 and 9, on a family vacation and her excitement to watch them ride roller coasters and enjoy time as a family. She was upset by her mother pointing out that that’s not exactly a vacation for a mom – a mom needs her own time without her kids.

First, I want to point out that I have a 1- and a 4-year-old. One of my favorite memories from this spring is taking them to the carnival in town. I loved watching my older one play games and win prizes. I loved that we all loved the ferris wheel ride and got to enjoy some ice cream while we were there. But let me repeat, it is one of my favorite memories.

As it turns out, my experience with motherhood is not always as enjoyable as those two hours (which I’m pretty sure contained some meltdowns) on that one night this year. In fact, in the past four years of me being a mother, I can assure you that no memories, good or bad, actually define motherhood for me. Motherhood seems to rest in the mundane in this house, and while we make memories, spontaneous or planned, there’s always more to the picture than what our minds’ eye can remember.

But, perhaps, the part of the article that struck a chord with me was not her idea of a perfect family vacation in which there is nothing but joy and squeals of excitement from the kids and how it was actually a pleasure for her to be with her boys, after drudging at work for grueling hours every day of the year (let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with this picture). Instead, it was her matter-of-fact statement that motherhood is not a job. To quote, “the language surrounding child rearing as a job surely derived from caregivers’ and homemakers’ efforts to be acknowledged as fulfilling an important role.” And, to add further insult to injury, she adds that while it is important for parents to do raise their kids, it brings in no income, so it cannot be considered a job.

I consider myself to be a stay-at-home mom, even though I work part time outside the house. I love my part-time job, but I adore my kids even more. Most often while at work, I am counting down the hours until I am able to kiss those faces again. But my job, in which I deal with dozens of kids every day, is nothing compared to the job of raising my two children.

I am certainly not one of those moms who has all of it figured out. I actually don’t feel like I haven even 10 percent of it figured out. My 1-year-old seems to know the times I set my alarm in the morning, because he seems to wake up a half hour before it, every single morning. I groggily start my day and serve the boys breakfast. Depending on how that goes, I am sometimes too overwhelmed by the sight of breakfast foods that I don’t even want to satiate my hunger any more. The rest of the morning is filled with different things. Sometimes, I’m a good mom and take my kids to the park or the pool or even just go on a walk around the neighborhood. Other times, I make the effort to be a good mom and put out an art project for them to do on a rainy morning and find that it only lasts for ten minutes, and that while I was cleaning up after them, the toddler ransacked every single basket of toys in the living room and now there is literally no space to walk, and it sets a bad tone for the rest of the day. And what feels like most days lately, I throw in the towel, take away some toys in an effort to lessen the inevitable mess, and throw on an episode of Curious George for the boys. Or three.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I have other things going on in life right now that take away my attention from the boys (such as studying for a huge exam coming up that I really don’t want to fail), or maybe it’s because I could honestly use a day where I wake up and only have to think about myself for a time, or maybe it’s because my toddler is the most strong-willed and feisty child I have ever known (and has been that way his entire life), but this mothering thing really feels like a job and not at all selfish. In fact, in part due to the fact that motherhood, ahem, surprised me a bit earlier than I was expecting (I have no qualms in admitting that we had planned to have our first son a bit later in life, because I wouldn’t change a thing about him today), but it sometimes actually feels like a sacrifice. And not just the lack of sleep or never getting to eat a meal while it’s hot kind of sacrifice, but also that I had to delay certain ambitions of mine and put aside dreams I had for my future – the same reasons for which people delay having children at all.

But here’s the thing: I adore my boys. It is a privilege to be their mother. And when my 4-year-old gives me a bear hug and sweet kiss as I say goodnight to him, it feels like the greatest reward. I mean, I get to call those two beautiful boys my own. And when I tuck them in at night and say “I love you” one last time for the day, I know that they are my reward for the job of raising them and they are worth any sacrifice.


Maybe the author of the article had a few good points. Maybe we shouldn’t focus on the hard work that comes with motherhood, but the joy that we reap from it. And, maybe, as some commenters pointed out, she didn’t mean “selfishness” in the way that the dictionary defined it. Hey, she’s entitled to her opinion, but if that’s not what she meant, then I’m going to call out The New York Times for publishing a writer who can’t use a thesaurus.

 

 

An Overwhelming Christmas

It was 5:30 AM on a Friday in late November. Ethan had already been up for two hours. I was exhausted. He was screaming in the crib, and Daddy tried to takeover and hold him for a bit.

All I wanted to do was sleep but I couldn’t. I decided to use that time to go on my phone to buy the main Christmas gift for the boys: tickets to a Christmas train.

I had it all planned out — we were going to take a mini-getaway a couple of hours from home, and go on this train that was the perfect blend of coziness, affordability, magic, location, and fun. The hotel was already booked, and I had meant to buy the tickets, but when I checked a few days before, I didn’t have my credit card with me, so I could not reserve the train tickets.

So, when I was met by the giant seven letters of heartbreak, SOLD OUT, I immediately started sobbing wailing. So now, my husband had two crying babies he had to try to console.

My reaction may seem a little extreme (it’s laughable now), but I was overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated as it was, and probably PMSing. But the thing that got me is that it felt like I was the biggest failure as a mom at that point. I had planned the most perfect gift for my boys and due to my failure to act, I could not give them a part of me.

Side note: Roland was a gem through all of this. So kudos to him. 😉

Fast forward to today, almost a week after our mini-getaway, I can tell you that the train ride would have been awesome but we had a great time as it was. (Because I know you’re curious, we went to a car/train museum and then to a nice hotel with a great indoor pool for kids. Joshua had the time of his life, and Ethan was perfectly behaved.)


Then today, as I was reading the story of Christmas to Joshua, I wondered how Mary felt. Each day, we focus on different portions of the story because Joshua is 3 and we have attention span issues with longer stories and I feel like there are so many important details to focus on. Today, I thought of Mary placing her newborn baby in a feeding box for animals because she had no other option.

Did she feel like a failure?

Did she, the woman who was hand-picked to carry our Savior, feel like she wasn’t cut out for the job?

Was she overwhelmed that at such an inconvenient time and place, her body was going into labor?

Did she question how she was going to raise this child when she realized that he would be born in a stable that night?

Did she wonder if she should have had a plan? Shouldn’t she have known that the census would be around this time? Wasn’t there someone Joseph knew who they could stay with? Did any of these questions go through her mind?

As a mom, it’s so easy to feel like a failure. Especially around the holidays, when we try so hard to make everything special for our kids but realize by December 15 that it’s more stressful than not and then wonder if it’s best to not soak up in the holiday magic or push through it anyway, and what about the Christmas gifts?

But Mary… she was a young girl who had one of the most important jobs this world has ever known. She was the vessel that God used to bring Jesus Christ into the world. And even she did not have all the answers. Heck, she even forgot her kid and did not notice until the next day.

So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect moms? Why did I sob over one mom fail when my kids were perfectly happy, despite my one mistake (which was so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things). Why do we especially strive to make things so overwhelmingly magical during this season? (Emphasis on overwhelming.) Don’t you think our kids would be equally happy with a little bit less stuff, planned events, and stress?

When Mary looked at her perfect baby lying in the manger, I don’t think she was thinking about the fancy bassinet that she did not have. When she saw the shepherds coming and bowing down before him, I don’t think she thought twice about the kind of mother she would be.

I think she was perfectly content, knowing that her baby boy was in her arms, that her Savior was in the world. I think the more she just sat and stared at his tiny face and took it all in, the more overwhelmed with peace and joy she became.

I want to do that. I want to focus on the fact that Christ came down to this earth for the every wounded heart, every broken soul, every crushed spirit, every afflicted body,  and even every financial problem.

I want to be overwhelmed by his goodness this Christmas.