Recognizing God’s Purpose for Your Life

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For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8 ESV).

It feels good when we know we are using the gifts God has given. There is a sense of completion in our work. But what about the times we see our service as something here, something there, but no true focus?

I have a friend who has the very strong gift of service. She is the first to respond to any need presented. She does menial things most others would not do. The majority is time-consuming and usually not the least bit convenient. But if she didn’t do them, there would be no one to clear a house of hoarder-like clutter, no one to sit with anxious patients through hours of cancer treatment, no one to carry numerous individuals to doctors’ appointments and pick up groceries and medicine for them.  My friend doesn’t feel like what she does counts for anything. She worries that she isn’t fulfilling God’s purpose for her life. I see her as a chief example of Matthew 25:37-40; that one Jesus says is being His hands and feet.

After retirement, I had some days of wondering what I was to do. I felt without direction and I prayed about what God wanted from me, how He might use me. In time, this is what I heard: Do for every person in your life what you can and with joy. Live in each day’s opportunities. Stop projecting out to new things and stop looking back at what you’ve done in the past. BE. DO. LOVE. Serve in this way.

That wasn’t the answer I had hoped to get. I had wanted some fresh and exciting project. Yet I knew I had heard from God so I set out to do what I could for family, friends, and others I felt God had placed in my pathway. I did eventually receive a new work that I would have never seen on my own; that of tutoring second grade children.

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Megan and Jia, George and Martha Washington Day 2012, my first reading friends. They are now seventh graders.

Having never considered myself very good with children, this would never have made it to my personal list of possibilities, yet I can tell you that this is one of the three things I’ve done in life that I’ve enjoyed most. It is so important for us to release all struggling to God so that His perfect plans can appear.

God knows what He has put in each of us to be used and if we submit and wait on Him—and follow His nudging—that thing will become clear. And we need always to remember it isn’t about what we do, but how we do it.  Jonah knew exactly what he was to do, but he didn’t want to do it. And when he did do it, it was begrudgingly and with anger. God saved many people through Jonah, yet he was blind to the eternal value. He was seeing the appointment with his eyes and not God’s. Let us not be guilty of that.

Give your questions of purpose completely over to God, then wait and watch. Don’t be afraid of the unfamiliar if your heart says it is of God. The One who created us knows exactly where we are best suited to serve. He has plans for us and those plans will be better than anything we could imagine on our own.

God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them (Hebrew 6:10 NIV).

 

Kitchen Memories

Sometimes I think about Mother at the oddest times–like when I’m in the kitchen and reach for a box of raisins. Just for a moment, I can remember the taste of raisins from Mother’s kitchen. She added them to the Christmas fruit salad, sprinkled them into her homemade cinnamon rolls, and baked them in pies.003 - Copy Her brother’s favorite pie was raisin cream and Mother made a great one. Raisins were folded into vanilla cream custard under a golden-peaked meringue.

When I was growing up, Mother did a lot of preserving. There was always a garden and she canned and froze the harvest.  It was a hot and hard work outside and inside. I learned how to can from Mother and once did quite a bit of it myself. I still do a little. It’s a way of visiting with my mother and grandmother in my kitchen, and I like the reward of seeing hours of labor packed away in jarssquash chow chow or boxes for the freezer to be enjoyed later and maybe even shared with a friend or two. There are some things you just can’t buy in a store that taste like a home product. I suppose I take pleasure in preserving for the same reason I like baking: I enjoy the process as much as the end result.

I had six years of home economics, grades seven through twelve. I still have some of the recipes from the later years, one a recipe for stuffed pork chops. The recipe came from a Meta Given cookbook that our teacher particularly liked. If I remember correctly, we used that recipe when the senior class of home economics (more commonly known today as family and consumer sciences or home science) prepared a complete meal for the senior agriculture class. The dinner was somewhat like a final exam for us. We were required to make a notebook about the meal beginning with the menu and ending with a self-evaluation of our work. I kept that pictorial notebook until just a few years ago when I had a major cleaning out of the attic. The pork chop recipe, however, remains in my active recipe file as an established family favorite for holidays.

I suppose it is an age thing (I’m in my seventies now), but I do quite a bit of reminiscing and it’s not all about cooking. I like thinking of times when our country was safer and childhoods less complicated. I like thinking about a day when our roles in life were clearly defined and we came and went feeling safe and not at risk. I like remembering simple pleasures, respect for authority, and expectation and reward for hard work. I’m sure I didn’t know it then, but those gentler, more practical days were the very best of days and somehow they passed by without our realizing we were losing them.

Memories of family and yesterday’s values seem most vivid when I am stirring around in my kitchen. As I create or recreate through cooking, baking, and preserving, I give thanks for those days that gave my life its underpinning. I give thanks for my home and my heritage. And with a satisfied smile, I give thanks for the memories.

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Family Treasures: Mother’s pitcher for whipping cream for strawberry shortcake and her crock for saving bacon grease on either side of my grandmother’s buttermilk pitcher.

Remembering Our Veterans

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A life-long friend, Larry Darby, sent an email more than a year ago encouraging me to write about the sacrifices made by our dads and others like them in WWII. “Tell the story of how they had nothing but a hard life and a good family around them and came back from war that same way. Tell about the moral fiber and work ethic that was like something we have never seen again or likely ever will see again.”

Larry continued, “They were willing to give all for family and community—some gave all, others had to live with what they saw to preserve our freedom. Some of what they endured for others was so deep and scarred they shared very little with their family while they lived with thoughts and scenes every day we cannot imagine.”

The picture Daddy carried with him to war.

The picture Daddy carried with him to war.

I was 6 months old when Daddy enlisted and then told Mother what he had done. I can’t imagine the shock, tears, and heartbreak when he told her. Who would take care of us? How would she face each day wondering if he would come back or die overseas? I’m sure Daddy had those same concerns but on July 6, 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Army/Air Corp and there was nothing to do but move forward.

While Mother felt he was needed at home to take care of his family, Daddy saw going overseas as the greater way to do that. I have something he wrote prior to enlisting. He wrote: “Have you ever thought of what would happen if we should lose this war we are fighting? Well I have and it isn’t a pleasant thing to think of. When I go home tired and maybe a little disgusted from a hard day’s work, my wife and baby meet me at the door with a kiss and happy smiling faces. Then I know I have everything to work and fight for. I thank God for my right to live in this great country where the rich and the poor, male and female, share alike with freedom for all.” I suppose with that, Daddy’s decision was made.

Signed "To my darling wife." Probably the first pic sent home.

Signed “To my darling wife.” Probably the first pic sent home.

In our home the war was never talked about, a common behavior with WWII vets. Mother said Daddy returned home with scars all around his waist and only after much prodding did he tell her it was where he had been bitten by rats while in a foxhole. I remember Daddy waking us while sleepwalking and trying to climb the wall in the hallway. He was dreaming and thought he was in the midst of battle.

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The day Daddy returned from war

Daddy returned from war with shrapnel wounds in five places. One wound was near his spine and never operable because of the potential risk of crippling him. His injuries caused swelling and temporary paralysis on one side of his body and we returned to Tennessee from Oklahoma for him get care at the Memphis VA hospital. On the back of some pictures of a house in Oklahoma, Mother wrote: “The house we bought and never got to live in.” Oklahoma was where Daddy’s four brothers lived and was intended to be our home, too.

Larry said: “In spite of the hardships created by going off to war, those who returned fit back into society and made major contributions to local communities, business, church, and government. We owe them every freedom we possess. They were a generation of workers and not takers.” It was so of my dad in that he would take no compensation for his war injuries. He would say to the VA reps who visited, “Give it to a soldier who can’t work; I can.” It was another common behavior of WWII vets to not take the disability they were due.

After Daddy died, Mother told me he had promised God that if He would let him return home to us he would spend the rest of his life taking care of others. I saw many ways he did that, but he never talked about any of them. We had an elderly neighbor that Daddy bathed, dressed, and walked on a daily basis when he became too feeble to care for himself. He also had wiring strung from their house to ours so the couple could push a buzzer if they needed help. He gave money to those in need when it meant a sacrifice to do so. At Daddy’s funeral, several told Mother how he for years had helped them in basic ways like taking their deposits to the bank and picking up stamps or groceries for them.

I can only tell you about my dad, knowing Larry’s dad and others of WWII have similar stories. That generation lived to serve others.

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Larry and fiance, Linda

In closing, Larry talked about how our nation is suffering today, how we dishonor our country and scoff at God. We are concerned about a sense of entitlement with gratitude to no one and agree we have giddily positioned ourselves on the brink of disaster and are glad that our dads are not here to see it.

I close with this quote by José Narosky: “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” The horrors of war are too great to forget. We owe a debt of gratitude to every man and woman who has fought to keep us free and their lives impacted in ways only war can do. I know each one would have a story worthy of being told, a story written in their minds and hearts forever. May God bless our military of yesterday and today. They are one and all heroes.

Larry and I believe this to be a photo of a WWII vets support group since we each have the picture but were never told about it. My dad and his dad, Floyd Darby, are front row, 1st & 2nd from left.

Larry and I believe this to be a photo of a WWII vets support group; they didn’t or couldn’t talk to their families so they talked to one another. My dad, Walter Luffman, and his dad, Floyd Darby, are front row, 1st & 2nd from left.

Thinking on the Rain

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“Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it” Isaiah 45:6 (NKJV).

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A grey cloud hovers overhead. It is the promise of drink for dry ground and the uplifted faces of blooming things; the promise of water enough for birds to bathe in a forsaken fount. The grey cloud covers the sun and provides shade and a cooler day for man and animal alike.

Thunder grumbles and the rain comes, spreading its kindness over the day’s needs.file0001836239952 The earth smells fresh and colors deepen as flowers and grass are clad with glistening drops of rain. The world seems to slow a bit and I can’t hold back a smile, for I love a rainy day!

It occurs to me that the simplest things color my life with happiness. Watching showers march upon the ground and sidewalks, seeing a bird wash insects from his wings in a DSCF4397new pool of water. Pondering the buds of roses about to break forth into full bloom and how their deep drink of rain will lend a hand to the process.

I think of how rain promenades on ponds, lakes, rivers, and even the sea. The larger the body of water, the more mystical a rain appears in its stroll. What sight is grander than the downpour of heaven joining waters of the yawning deep? What vision sweeter than blooming things with lifted faces catching a morning shower? DSCN4082What image more right than birds making use of a shallow basin with its fill of afternoon rains?

Lord, I long to linger in the splendor of how you’ve made things, to think on the beauty of nature without man’s interference. Where could I go and pay a price for something as wondrous as this? You give so generously of all you have fashioned; let me not miss it. It is a demonstration and continuing promise of Your love. I bow to you with grateful heart.

“For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God”(Hebrews 6:7 NKJV).

Photo credits to morgueFile, with appreciation.

Mama’s Bible

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. . . take root downward and bear fruit upward. (Isaiah 37:31 ESV)

My grandmother’s Bible was a treasure beyond any price. I had hoped as her oldest grandchild that I might inherit it, however I never discussed that with my grandmother or my mother and so in the end it didn’t come to be.

What made Mama’s Bible so revered? She poured and prayed over its words daily. Her gentle, but sure hands caressed the pages. She wept and rejoiced, she trusted and she practiced. She did what Isaiah said: took root downward and bore fruit upward.

I’ve never known anyone that Jesus was as real to as He was to Dulcie Spencer. She sang songs to Him throughout the day and talked to Him as if He were right at her elbow. I’ve walked into her home and overheard her talking and thought she had company, only to find out it was no visitor but her best friend and permanent resident: Jesus. Mama relied on Him completely for every matter and that reliance gave her a radiance that cannot be duplicated by anything of this world. Mama had a heavenly glow. THE_SPENCER_FAMILY_001 - Copy

My grandmother had no earthly riches. She lived a simple life, but a life marked with beauty because of how she lived it. Mama’s standard was to do exactly as God’s Word said for her to do: she loved God with all her heart, soul, strength and mind; she loved her neighbors as herself; and she believed God’s word that when we trust Him completely, He will never forsake us. Mama’s family saw and respected that trust. I believe we were all, in fact, hugely affected by her rock-solid trust in God. My earliest memory of Mama is of her kneeling by her bed for prayer at end-of-day, long dark braids falling down her back and over her homemade gown. Mama always prayed aloud and just as I have visual remembrances of Mama, I have auditory ones, too.

wedding pic - CopyWhen I married in 1989, Mama wasn’t physically able to be with us so she sent her Bible to me for the ceremony. I can’t think of better representation of this woman that I loved more than ever I could express.

Though I didn’t get to keep the book she loved above all others, she did give me her faith and for that I am eternally grateful. Mine isn’t as beautiful as hers, but it is as confident. And what she passed on to me, I passed on to my daughter Kristi. I know because I have witnessed it.

I truly cannot imagine my life without this great woman’s influence. I have often said if I could choose to be like anyone in the world, it would be my grandmother. I wish I could say I had lived a life like hers, but I can’t. My journey has been one of much stumbling, failing, and starting over, however no one’s persuasion of faith has had a greater hold on me than that of Dulcie Spencer. I thank her for showing me a Jesus she never doubted and pointing the way to heaven’s door. You are my crown jewel, Mama.Copy of spencer family about 1951

Here are a few lines from a letter Mama wrote to her children not long before she died in 1991 at 91 years of age: The dear Lord has been so good to our family. I can’t thank him enough and that he lives in me all the time.  I’ve prayed to him all my life and He answers my prayers day and night. Please don’t grieve after me when I’m gone for I’ll be safe with our dear Lord and all my loved ones in heaven. 

 

Remembering Papa’s Faith

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Sometimes I think about the day my grandfather was told he had a terminal illness. Daddy had called to let me know Papa was being admitted directly from his doctor’s office to the hospital. I told Daddy I would meet them there.

When I got to Papa’s room, he was sitting on the side of the bed, still wearing his hat. He looked so tired and I encouraged him to lie down. He did without a word of protest, but with his shoes still on. I slipped them off his feet. My grandmother stood quietly by, grave concern etched on her face. Mama and Papa had been married 65 years—since they were 16 and 18.

We didn’t have to wait long for Papa’s physician. He came into the room, sat down in a chair near Papa’s bed and gave us a diagnosis we didn’t want to hear: acute leukemia. Papa’s physician said that without treatment he would live maybe two months. With treatment, he might live two years, but there would be no quality of life and he personally could not advise that route. If Papa wanted treatment, he would refer him to a specialist.

Without hesitation or questions, Papa said “I’ve lived a good long life and if it’s my time to go, I’m all right with that, I’m ready.” It was a clear statement of his faith; he had no fear in dying.

A picture made Papa was so sick. One of the few times he was out of bed.

A picture made when Papa was so sick. One of the rare times he was out of bed. Mama stands between their two oldest children, J. B. and Louise.

Papa left that hospital bed for one at home where his children and their spouses took care of him, never leaving Mama to do it alone. He lived shy of a year—nine months I believe it was, but longer than the two months predicted. His doctor said it was his strong body that gave him added time. Papa had been so healthy all his life; he had never seen a doctor for anything but the annual renewal of his barber’s license.

To remember Papa is to remember how tender his heart was toward God. I never heard him pray without crying. He just couldn’t get to the “amen” without emotion spilling over. Both my grandparents deeply loved the Lord. Jesus was as much a resident of their home as Papa and Mama. They trusted God implicitly and gave God all the thanks.

When Papa died, Mama wrote in her journal “Jim went home to be with Jesus today.”  Simply and accurately put. They never doubted where they would spend eternity. And to their credit and as best I know, none of us, children or grandchildren, has doubted either. Jim and Dulcie Spencer made sure of that.

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Jim and Dulcie Spencer, my cherished grandparents.

So, when I remember Papa, I remember first his love for the Lord and a faith that let him say, when it’s my time, I’m ready. I give thanks for this man’s life and the rich heritage he gave to me.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  –Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

                                                                   

 

A Job’s Value

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A recent Guideposts story on job perspective really gave me pause. A man who had lost his job and had been unemployed for seven years was offered the job of janitor at his church. While he was grateful, his wife was not. It would require both of them and she felt it wasn’t important and fell beneath their potential. But as she received new vision on the job’s importance, and in some part the hidden roles it played, she reexamined her attitude and her life. She had an attitude shift—a new perspective.

I began thinking of those who clean our church and church school and wondered how they saw their jobs. Our buildings are immaculate: floors shiny clean, walls free of marks, bathrooms fresh and in order. It must take incredible attention and skill to keep them that way. Do our janitors see their work as important? Do they feel appreciated? Have I ever told them they are appreciated?

Courtesy morgueFile DSC05581.JPG

Courtesy morgueFile DSC05581.JPG

At a very large church next door to us, the cleaning duties are staffed by volunteers and headed up by a company executive. Keeping the church clean is a job he asked for, a way he desires to serve, and that service has provided $1.6 million in local and global missions. It’s pretty easy to see the value of their jobs, but it doesn’t have to be this dramatic to make a difference. Any building kept clean says a lot about what happens there, and probably nowhere is such a statement more important than in a church. The basics done with excellence indicate how other things are managed.

There is a quote I’ve always loved: “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence.” While some jobs may take a while to reveal an individual, the profession of cleaning is a work that paints a self-portrait quickly.

Sometimes you have to reach bottom to understand the importance of basic work. That’s what happened to the man who for seven years had sought work like he had—that of a software developer. He came to a place where having a paying job was more important than what he did and he received the position offered him with gratefulness. He embraced it determined to do his best and six years later is still signing that work with excellence. The executive who cleans our neighboring church is a recovering alcoholic. That dealt with his ego in a powerful way and his way of serving others still goes strong after twenty years. Another self-portrait signed with excellence.

I began to think of other work that wasn’t so glamorous but ranked as valuable to most of us. What about the people who bag our groceries and take care to separate delicate items from heavier ones? Who limit the weight put in a bag? What about someone in a store who walks us to what we are looking for rather than pointing the way? The service people who come to our houses and put on shoe protectors at the door rather than tramping through with whatever they’ve brought with them from outside?

Every job is important and I’m going to be better at letting those with jobs that daily affect my life know I appreciate them. I hope you will join me in the doing the same.

Bullying: A Behavior not to be Ignored

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morgueFile, LHPROM2015KATMAT 197.jpg

I don’t understand bullying. Why deliberately set out to hurt someone? And why is it a behavior seen too often in children?

One of my earliest memories is of a shiny little red purse I had at about age 4. I dropped the purse and the few coins I had in it spilled out. An older girl quickly picked up the change and then laughed because she had taken it from me.

I tutor second grade children and some of them have confided in me about times they were bullied. One child, in running away from the one spouting hurtful words, fell and broke her arm.

My daughter had her share of bullying in school. There was one classmate in particular who bullied and I tried talking to the mother. She simply dismissed it, saying she knew her daughter would not do such a thing. It continued, of course. Only when Kristi’s dad went to the child’s father and very firmly insisted he deal with his daughter, did the bullying stop.

Why do children bully? It may come from having been physically or emotionally abused. It could be that one of the parents is a bully and the child is acting out what has been seen at home. It may also be from feeling left out at home, school, or other social event and the individual is being a bully to get attention.

Research says that bullying begins at preschool age and, if not addressed, worsens through the school years. A bully left undisciplined will be attracted to gangs and a high percentage of bullies become criminals by their mid-twenties. It is not a conduct to be taken lightly, or to assume a child will grow out of the overly aggressive behavior on their own.

What can be done to protect children from being bullied? Here are suggestions from “Psychology Today” (www.psycholgytoday.com):

  1. Avoid the bully
  2. Use a buddy system (stay near a friend or two)
  3. Hold your anger and don’t retaliate; that is exactly what the bully wants to provoke
  4. Maintain eye contact and keep your voice calm and even
  5. Use the bully’s name when addressing their behavior
  6. Act bravely by walking away; try to ignore the bully
  7. Tell an adult early on. This is not tattling but is what the bully will try to make you think it is.
  8. Talk about it with a parent or older person who will give you support and love.

My heart aches for any child being bullied, but I also ache for the one who bullies, because I know that a child who continuously bullies is broken. Something very deep-seated is hurting in any individual who wishes harm or ridicule for another. It may not be easy, but as followers of Christ, we must remember to pray for the one who bullies, as well as for the one being bullied. Prayer is a mighty weapon; I know of one case where prayer alone turned a situation around.

Trusting God’s Answer & His Plan

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“I don’t know when we will be able to get you help or even if this job will survive the hiring freeze,” said my boss. “There are two other positions I can offer if you don’t want to take the risk.”

It was 1984 and I was in a newly created position, that of patient representative, and I loved my work. The job of helping patients and families with concerns and unmet needs had proved highly successful with hospital staff and physicians. There were two of us hired to establish a patient representative program based on best national models and the other person had resigned right before the hiring freeze. I had no idea how I would manage this alone—or even if should try. I was a single woman dependent on a regular paycheck.

My heart had always been for the one who felt overlooked or not respected and I enjoyed breaking down problems and finding answers. Having once worked as an office nurse, the involvement with caregivers came naturally. My mother called it my mission field and that was how I saw it, too. But I couldn’t ignore the risks involved.

My boss said to take the weekend and think about what I wanted to do. I knew the first thing was to make it a matter of fervent prayer. As I prayed and searched scriptures, my Bible seemed to fall open to Jeremiah 42:10-12: “If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you are now fearing; do not be afraid of him,” declares the Lord, “for I am with you to save you and deliver you from his hand. I will also show you compassion, so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your own soil.”

I felt the strong presence of God and that He was speaking to me about my job dilemma. I interpreted it this way: Stay where you are. You will survive and the program will grow and be strengthened beyond what it is now. Don’t be afraid of the hospital administrator’s ability to snuff out the job entirely. You are where you are meant to be; don’t see this through human understanding (risk of no job or temptation of better pay).  Trust me.

And so I did. I stayed, I trusted God, and I had total peace about my decision. The position wasn’t cut, the program became a department with adequate staff to cover seven days a week. We took on new responsibilities through the years and I retired in 1998 as corporate director of Patient Affairs.

Are you looking for answers in your own life? There is One standing ready to help you find those answers. Dedicate yourself to daily reading of His word. Make yourself available to hear the Holy Spirit’s gentle but sure direction. Give God priority in your life and He will not fail you. He is the giver of peace and joy for those who love Him.

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NAS)

Chaplain Bob Howerton, Sr VP Methodist Health Systems, and me, about 1985

Chaplain Bob Howerton, Sr VP Methodist Health Systems, and me, about 1985. He believed in my potential and hired me to be a patient representative. I will be forever grateful.

 

Mary & Elizabeth’s Added Blessing

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“. . . [Mary] you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age” (Luke 1:30-31, 36 NIV).

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In reading Luke 1, I always stay a while at the part of the story where Mary and Elizabeth spend time together. These were two women of impossibility, touched by God to play pivotal roles in the salvation story. I doubt even the most creative of minds could do justice to what each gained in the three months they spent together.

The Jewish people had long awaited their Messiah; probably no one ever considered He would come by virgin birth to an unknown. Then there was the case of a woman long past child-bearing years, but by God’s divine appointment also pregnant. Most likely each one was enduring ridicule: Mary with her suspicious pregnancy and Elizabeth carrying a child in a worn out body.

I believe God always gives us added blessing when we go through troublesome times and He didn’t miss the benefit Mary and Elizabeth would derive from human comfort and support. He gave them companionship for three months. He gave them added blessing.

Somehow, I suspect the journey to Judea of four to five days probably didn’t seem that long to Mary; her mind must have been so flooded with all Gabriel had told her that she hardly noticed the steps.  Upon reaching Elizabeth’s home, she heard Elizabeth say “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her would be accomplished” (Luke 1:45 NIV). That may well have given Mary the first relief she experienced after knowing her destiny. She was believed! She was affirmed without saying a word!  It was God’s added blessing.

Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Mary arrived so Mary was with her right up to time for John’s birth. Why would she stay so long? I believe to help this elderly woman through the hardest days of her pregnancy. I don’t think it assuming too much to consider that Elizabeth might have been confined to bed. Mary would likely have taken over cooking and cleaning and other household duties. And, with Zechariah unable to speak, Mary would have provided Elizabeth with conversation during her time of waiting.

In return, the young Mary would have gained great wisdom from Elizabeth. She would have passed on life advice and spiritual advice. Imagine the wealth of knowledge the wife of a priest would have! Mary would have gone back to Nazareth a stronger woman, better prepared to endure the unkind comments and stares of a suspect pregnancy, and one schooled in how to be a spiritual guide for the Lord in His youth.

For me, the three months shared by Mary and Elizabeth is a chief and often overlooked story of God’s amazing grace; how He never gives us anything to do that He doesn’t also give us the help in doing it–that thing called added blessing.

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