What If You Had Been There?

Imagine you’re Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, Mary the mother of James, or any of the woman who closely followed Jesus and were there in Jerusalem during Holy Week.

Image Credit:
WordPress Blog

Focus on Jesus, the one you followed, talked to, learned from, believed in, loved…

Now see him snatched from the garden by torchlight.

See him dragged around the city and subjected to illegal trials.

Now he’s beaten and spat on. See his bloody and broken body.

See him on the cross.

Now he’s dead. See his body wrapped in cloth and laid in a cave in the side of a hill.

All is lost. How can this be? You don’t understand. Were you wrong to follow him? You were convinced he was going to save you, but he couldn’t even save himself.

Now, the angels say he’s alive!

Now he appears before you – whole, healthy, breathing, eating, speaking!

Now he tells you to go, teach, baptize, and make more disciples.

See him lifted from the mountain and watch him be carried into heaven.

You have been saved. Everything he said is true. He is alive. He is the Christ!

Now you are sure.

Now you will tell everyone you meet about what he did to free people from sin.

Now you will live the rest of your life for him.

Then, you will spend eternity with him…

On this Maundy Thursday, spend time in quiet with Jesus thanking him for the sacrifice he made for you. If you haven’t been following along with us as we focused on Holy Week during the month of March, here are the reading lists:

What Happened the Week Before Jesus Died

What Happened The Week Before Jesus Died – Triumphal Entry

What Happened the Day Before Jesus Died

What Happened the Day Jesus Died

What Happened Three Days After Jesus Died

What Happened Three Days After Jesus Died – Resurrection and Ascension*

{If this is your first “What Happened” post, go back to the introductory post for the survey of the major events of Holy week that we’re doing together on Servant Girl Stories during March. Then, read the post detailing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Next, read the post about the night before Jesus died. Finally, read the post describing Jesus’ trials and crucifixion. After that, you’re ready for this post}.

The women find Jesus’s tomb empty. Image credit: 1stbiblical blog

As early as possible on the first day of the week, you gather with the other women to take more spices to the tomb where Jesus’ body was placed.

Nicodemus and Joseph already covered his body in myrrh and aloes before binding him and laying him in Joseph’s tomb three days ago. But the women agreed to take more spices as soon as the Sabbath was over, and you want to go with them.

One last chance to be near Jesus.

It seems right that he should be honored this way.

The sweet aroma of the burial spices forces you to confront the truth – their scent is meant to cover the stench of a dead body as it decomposes. Jesus is dead. You are going to anoint his dead body with these spices. You have helped anoint dead bodies of loved ones before, but you never really noticed how the spices smelled. Not so keenly as you do now. But the odor is overwhelming. Your eyes burn, and your nose and throat sting.

Thinking of him and how much you loved and were devoted to him, hot tears pour from your eyes again. You haven’t stopped crying since Friday. Since you witnessed his gruesome death. Something you will never forget for the rest of your life.

You still cannot believe the teacher is gone.

Quietly, you and the other women gather the spices and make your way to the tomb. You don’t look at each other. You don’t speak to each other.

How can he be dead? You ask yourself for the millionth time. How could someone that good… be gone?

On the day he removed the demons that possessed and tormented you for so long, you vowed to follow him to the ends of the earth.

You just never expected the end to come so quickly…and in Jerusalem.

“How will we move the stone?” Someone asks, snatching you back to the present.

You’d been blindly following the group in a trance of disbelief, despair, and devastation.

How will we move the stone? You wonder, your forehead furrowing. Panic begins to rise. We must be allowed to anoint his body! You think as your heart begins to race. Blood pounds loudly in your ears.

From the front of the cluster of your friends, Joanna gasps loudly and stops so quickly that Salome bumps into her and you bump into Salome. The other women behind you crowd close.

“Look!” Joanna’s voice is barely above a whisper.

Glancing past the women in front of you, you see it. But you don’t believe it. You squint and blink against the sun just beginning to rise over the tombs.

The stone has already been rolled away…

The empty tomb/Image Credit: istockphoto

Readings for the fourth week of March

*As you read each account, note similarities and differences.  How does each writer describe the events?  How are they similar and how are they different?  How do the different perspectives give you a fuller picture of the event?

**Always pay special attention to the things Jesus said/direct quotes.

***When you’re reading, try to imagine the scene in your head: see the people, hear the sounds, inhale the smells. Visualize the events happening as clearly as something you’ve witnessed with your own eyes. For example, with the arrest in the garden, see the soldiers’ torchlight dancing off their armor, hear the worried voices of the disciples as they realize what the soldiers have come to do…imagine you are there in the scene as it unfolds.

Sunday – Jesus resurrects and appears to various people. 

READ:

  • Matthew 28:1-20
  • Mark 16:1-9
  • Luke 24:1-53
  • John 20:1-31

Other Accounts of Jesus’ Appearances after His Resurrection

Optional Reading

READ:

  • John 21:1-25

The remaining 11 disciples speak with Jesus before he ascends.  Soon after that, the disciples return to the upper room (where the Last Supper was held) for a prayer meeting. 

Jesus ascends into heaven. Image Credit: pinimg.com

Optional Reading

  • Acts 1:1-14

Everything we have read about Jesus’ Passion week should point us to Jesus, the cross, salvation, and penitence. It should make it even more grateful for what he did and what it means in our lives.

During the week, reread the verses as many times as possible. Try to read them in different translations as well. Also, read commentary on these verses. Listen to them on a Bible app that will read them aloud. This will help you visualize everything and write the events on your heart. Journal your thoughts on the questions to consider above. Share our survey of events with a friend so you can discuss together what God is showing you as you pray and read.

I pray the Lord will show you something fresh in these familiar stories as you prepare your heart for His resurrection.

Image Credit: elevatechristiannetwork.com

How have you been impacted by studying accounts of Easter events in the 4 Gospels? I would love to hear about your experience reading about Easter week.

*Along with the Bible verses listed above, the following articles helped inform the narrative at the beginning of this study:

https://www.gotquestions.org/anointing-spices.html

https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/678-the-sweet-fragrance-of-a-subtle-argument

https://godasagardener.com/2016/03/25/aloe-and-myrrh-wrapped-body/

Shift the Focus

A panicked shriek broke through the den of otherwise happy sounds bouncing off the gym walls. I turned to see two boys sprawled on the floor, one of them red-faced and screaming. As I walked toward them, one boy picked himself off the floor, shot a half-concerned half-confused look at the other one (still lying on the floor and screaming) and walked off.

I crouched down beside the boy on the floor. He was clutching one hand tightly in the other. He was so upset, he could barely make a sound although his head was thrown back, his mouth was open wide, and tears were streaming down his face. I gathered him in my arms. “Did you hurt your hand when you fell?”

“I…want…mommy!” He managed between gulps of air. I hugged him tightly and sat in a nearby chair. The rest of his classmates played jubilantly around us. (I teach a 4-year-old preschool class, and it was very cold and wet from a few rainy days in a row, so we had our play time inside our gym).

We sat on the chair together while he gasped for breath and cried. I rubbed his back. He continued to hold his hand so tightly the end of his fingers turned purple.

“Let me see your hand. Can you show me where it hurts?”

“I want mommy!” He insisted.

From what I could tell, nothing was terribly wrong with his hand. I didn’t see the accident, but I saw the two boys running at full speed around the gym earlier, so I assumed they’d somehow collided and fallen. This little guy had put his hand out to catch himself or maybe the other little guy landed on this one’s hand. Whatever happened, he worked himself into a tizzy about it.

We continued to sit. Me rubbing his back and him crying, although not as fiercely as before.

After a while, I noticed one of his classmates (the same little boy who’d gotten tangled up with him just a few moments earlier) skipping past us singing, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Valentine’s Day! Do-de-do. Do-de-do”.

Taking the opportunity to distract the upset kiddo in my lap, I said, “Did you hear what he’s singing? I think he made that up. Have you heard that song before?” I made an exaggerated confused face.

My friend in my lap giggled.

The classmate made another loop. Still skipping and singing his made-up Valentine’s Day song.

“That is so funny!” I grinned at my injured friend. “Listen. He’s STILL singing his made-up song!”

The little boy giggled again, this time with his eyes and his face 🙂

The singing boy caught on to the fact that we were listening to him. He skipped in a tighter circle around us and sang louder, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Valentine’s Day! Do-de-do. Do-de-do”. He watched us watch him and giggled mischievously.

I sang along and bounced the little boy on my lap. He laughed loudly. His eyes were still wet, but his face was lit with a smile. He hopped from my lap and ran off with his friend, starting another lap around the gym.

Most anyone who has experience with children will tell you, if they’re upset, distraction is a good strategy. (If they aren’t seriously hurt, of course).

If you can get them to focus on another person (another kid playing and having a good time or doing something silly), many times, they’ll forget their minor scrap or bump or pouty attitude, and voila! They’re off playing again.

This is what God wants us to do when we get bogged down in our own lives – focus on someone else. He wants us to take our attention off ourselves and our circumstances and put other people and their needs first.

Image Credit: Knowing Jesus

When we focus on others, we forget about our own problems – just like my friend forgot about his hurt hand when he focused on the other little boy’s song. And that’s part of the point. So many verses tell us to love our neighbors, love our enemies, put others above ourselves, love because God loves and love because He told us to do so. (This is just a small taste of the verses that tell us to put others first). So there’s gotta be something to this logic, right?!

Image Credit: dailyverses.net

More importantly, putting others first puts God first. When we look to the interests of others before we look to our own, God is glorified. And that’s the WHOLE point.

Struggling Believer… I See You…I Am You…Together Let’s Discover What It Really Means to Be Servant Girls

So you believe in Jesus.

You know He was God’s Son, and you know He came to earth and lived among us as a man, as one of us. You know He taught about God and performed some miracles. You know He died on the Cross so the sins of those who believed could be forgiven. You know the tomb is empty because He rose and is in heaven with the Father. You believe. You’re a Christian, maybe even a member of a church somewhere.

But something is missing.

You aren’t growing. Or, you haven’t changed.

You took the big step: you believed.

But you don’t walk every day in what you believe.

You know stories about Him but haven’t experienced Him for yourself.

It is time to walk in what you say you believe. Every day. Be a servant girl. Live in it every day.

It is time to serve.

It is time to respond to the Good News, to God. To what He’s offering.

It is time to discover God’s will for your life and obey it.

It is time to recognize His voice and respond to it.

It is time for an intimate relationship.

It is time to pray and listen.

It is time to open your Bible.

It is time to live the every day details of who you say you are.

(I’m talking to myself, too).

Maybe you’re asking: How do I walk as a servant girl? How do I serve God? How do I respond?

I can’t answer those questions for you personally. God has to tell you that.

But I can tell you how to seek the answers.

I am learning to walk daily.

I am learning to recognize His voice.

I am learning to obey.

Image Credit: challies.com

I have to stop here because this is where Satan is telling me that I don’t do these things that I’m saying I do.

And he’s right. To a point.

I don’t do them every day, all day.

I get full of pride.

I get lazy.

I get distracted.

I get on the wrong path.

I am human, so I make mistakes and try to go my own way and do things in my own power.

But very soon God calls me back. I hear His voice. He shows me my sin. I repent and get back on the right path.

Yes, I still sin. Yes, I still make mistakes and get my eyes off God.

But I know His voice. I have a relationship with Him. We are always talking so it isn’t long before He gets me back where I should be. It isn’t long and I don’t go very far before He corrects me.

Because I know Him. I recognize His voice. I talk to Him and listen to Him.

I walk with Him. I read His word. I obey Him. I submit. I serve.

I want to share with you what He’s taught me about being a servant girl.

In 2021, I want to help you discover how to daily walk with God.

If you don’t already, please subscribe to Servant Girl Stories by clicking the “Follow” button at the top right corner of the blog’s homepage and leave your email address. New things are coming this year and further in the future, and I want to share them with you. As a whole, I hope to offer practical information, action steps, people to relate to and examples to follow as we learn to lead godly lives.

I’m looking forward to the journey.

Image Credit: A Bloomin’ Mum

Prayer of Affirmation

Lord, you have told me that you go behind me and before me and that you hem me in on all sides. You have assured me of salvation through your Son and of a relationship with you through your Spirit. You have shown me that I can always trust you. In these assurances from you, Lord, I am blessed. I will fix my mind on these things and receive your comfort. I will fix my mind on you and what you have already done and already given. I will yield to you. I will trust you. I will rest in you and be at peace.

Amen

When the Fullness of Time Had Come (Repost)

{This was a post from last December, but the tone is of anticipation, eagerness, and encouragement. I wanted to share it again to remind you to wait on our faithful God to keep His promises}.

We are in the season of Advent now. You may have lighted some candles on your advent wreath at church or at home. You may also be doing an advent study this month.

Advent means the coming or arrival of something important. It is a time of anticipation. Eagerness. Excitement. Waiting.

Followers of Christ are waiting for Him to come again. We know He will. We have His Word to read; we can study and learn while we wait.

We have the Old Testament with the Mosaic law. The history of God’s chosen people. Prophecies pointing to Jesus.

We also have the New Testament detailing Jesus’ birth, life and ministry, His death, and His resurrection. The early church and the spread of the gospel.

Stop reading for a moment and do something for me. Grab your Bible and sit it on the table or on your lap. Now flip to the end of Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament. Hold the entire Old Testament in your hands, from Genesis to Malachi. Look at that group of pages in your hands.

Now flip all that over to the left side. What remains on the right is Matthew to Revelation – The New Testament. Hold that group of pages in your hand for a moment.

Lay the pages of the New Testament over to the right side. Your Bible should be lying open now. You’re looking at the end of the Old Testament on the left and the start of the New Testament on the right.

Did you know there were roughly 400 years between the recorded history of Malachi and the recorded history of Matthew? Imagine that as the gap you’re looking at in your Bible right now with the Old Testament on the left and the New Testament on the right. Some refer to this as “silent years” because God was silent during this time. He gave no inspired messages to His prophets. Why? What was happening? What was God doing? Why wasn’t He talking to His people?

One thing is clear as we look back on that period from our current standpoint: God was preparing events in history to get the world ready for the birth of His Son.

Galatians 4:4 says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”

When the fullness of time had come.

Many Israelites had been faithfully waiting. God had been working. At the time of the writing of Malachi, the Jews were under the rule of the Persian empire. When Matthew opens, Rome is the dominate power having conquered most of the civilized and known world at the time. What does that matter?

When the fullness of time had come.

With the Roman Empire came a common language – many of the people could understand the stories told about Jesus.

The Empire built a vast and well-maintained road system – the apostles could travel from place to place to share the Good News.

There was also common form of money in use and an established and far-reaching government and laws.

The world was ready for Jesus because of the influence of the Roman Empire – enemy of the Jews. Dominant over Jewish life. In His providence, God allowed Rome to prosper and spread, and then He used its infrastructure to tell about His son.

When the fullness of time had come.

God always does what He says He will do. He keeps His promises. He is working.

When the fullness of time had come.

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Image Credit: Harper Collins Christian

Day 7 – Challenge Complete

We’ve completed the challenge – 7 days of intentionally spending more time with God than we do watching/reading the news or on social media. We should pat ourselves on the back 🙂

On the last day of the challenge, I was able to spend about an hour and a half in quiet time with God – praying and reading the Bible. Also on Day 7, I logged 12 minutes on Facebook.

On the surface, the challenge was a success. Over a period of 7 days, I was able to spend more time with God each day than I did scrolling Facebook.

I accomplished my goal.

But I don’t want to fool myself into thinking I “won” just because I met the challenge.

This exercise brought other issues to the surface.

For example, even in successfully completing the challenge according to the original terms explained by my pastor, my focus on God this week wasn’t necessarily genuine. I realized that much of the time was spent trying not to look at Facebook rather than on trying to spend more time with God. I avoided Facebook as much as I could; that was my focus. I concentrated on what I shouldn’t do rather than on what I should do.

That is legalism, and I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to focus on the outward and ignore the inward. I want my heart to change.

Instead of concerning myself with what I shouldn’t do, I should make looking at God the focus of my energy. In reality, Facebook isn’t the enemy. An unguarded heart and eyes that don’t focus on God are the enemy.

Also, because of the challenge, I was forced to acknowledge other things I do throughout the day that take my focus off God, even once I drastically cut time on Facebook.

Using the Screen Time setting on my smartphone to log my daily phone usage, I could tell that I spent fewer minutes on Facebook than I normally do. But, while I logged less time on that app, time on other applications increased, taking Facebook’s place. For example, most days this week, I spent more than an hour a day texting.

This reiterates something I already learned – I shouldn’t focus on not scrolling on Facebook (because I might be tempted to simply fill in that time with something else on my phone). I should focus instead on keeping my eyes on God. If I do that, many of the other things should fall away on their own.

However, there was still rich quiet time with God this week, and time spent with God is never wasted.

What did I learn during our time in prayer and in reading the Bible?

I was reminded that God will make a way.

I was reminded, through a friend’s input, that all God wants is me – nothing fancy – just my genuine desire to simply be with him. I don’t need to worry about meeting a challenge. I don’t need to attempt to check “quiet time with God” off my to-do list for the day. I just need to be in His presence.

That is refreshing and freeing. There is no singular right way to spend time with God. I don’t need to set a timer or watch a clock to be sure I do it for a certain amount of time. I don’t need to read a certain number of scriptures from the Bible. I don’t need to pray for a certain number of prayer needs. I don’t need to make sure I sit in the same position or in the same place every time. I just need to get still and quiet and listen to and talk with God.

What about you? Would you say the challenge was a success for you? What did you learn through this exercise?

How do you feel after 7 days of focusing more on God than on news outlets or social media? Compare your current mood or attitude right now to how you felt when you first read about the challenge? Feel free to share here.

Whatever the outcome for you, let’s continue to concentrate on God. Let’s continue to weed out the things in our lives that cause us to lose focus on Him. When God shows us stumbling blocks, let’s remove them.

After all, the idea is to keep our minds and hearts on Jesus – not to spend less time looking at news outlets or scrolling Facebook.

Give God first place. Top priority.

Have faith in Him

Obey Him

Follow Him

Look at Him

Why “Venting” Won’t Cut It

When God shows us our sin, we have to repent and turn from that sin back to God.  That means we aren’t supposed to go back to that sin.

Easier said than done, right?  YES!

Some things I turned from and never looked back.  Some things I turned from, and God had to work on me a while.  Some things God convicted me about, and I still struggle to turn from them.

You probably have a similar experience although the sins you struggle with – the things you do that do separate you from God – may be different from mine.

Lately, God has been convicting me about my talk.  He reminded me that we have to be holy in our behavior.  He also reminded me that what comes out of my mouth reflects what’s in my heart.

 

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Image Credit: Instagram

He reminded me that I should come to Him when I get frustrated with someone else’s behavior rather than “venting” to another person about what has made me angry or hurt my feelings.

“Venting” is what we call it when we complain or fuss to a third party about our frustrations.

For example, I could vent to my sister when I’m frustrated with my husband; I could go to her (and sometimes do) to complain or fuss about something he said that hurt my feelings or something he did that made me angry.

So, I vent to blow off steam, to let off the pressure, and then it’s all over, and I can move on, right?

But really this is just talking behind my husband’s back, isn’t it?

And it didn’t really fix anything, did it?

In fact, the only thing I’ve succeeded in doing is making it worse.

If we honestly look at it, venting is dangerous.  It changes our mind and heart toward the person or thing we are venting about.  It hardens our hearts more toward the situation and the people involved.

It also hardens the heart of the person we vent to.  It literally changes how that person perceives the person we’re venting about.  So, it causes the confidant or third party to sin, too.

So, what the heck do I do when I’ve been wronged, and I’m angry?  When I need to fuss about what someone’s done to me?  When I need to vent my frustrations?

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Image Credit: Les Feldick Bible Study 

Go to God.  Pray to Him.  Talk to Him about what that person said or did.  How the person made me angry.  How I want God to change that person.

You can do this, too, when you need to vent.

You can yell at Him.  You can cry.  Be angry.  Be hurt.  Be heart-broken.  He can handle it.

Warning – God might not change that person who wronged you.  But, He’s very likely to change your heart toward that person.

I know you don’t want that.  You aren’t the problem, right?  The other person is…so you may have to “get right with God,” as they say, before you can do this – knowing you’re more likely to be changed and the other person might not be.  Wrestle with Him about that, too.  God will speak to you in that wrestling. He wants you to bring it to Him.

And maybe God can use the change in you to bring about change in the person who wronged you after all.  Maybe the other person sees the change in you and how you treat them, and God uses that to soften their heart so He can change them…kinda crazy, huh?  But that’s how God works.  His kingdom is upside-down, and His ways are not our ways.

So let’s try it.

I’m working on it, too.

The next time I am angry or hurt and feel the need to talk to someone about my issue with someone else, I’m going to talk to God instead.  I’m going to take my frustration or anger to Him and allow Him to have His way with my heart.

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Image Credit: Klove.com

Pray this prayer with me…

Dear God,

Living in the world as your child seems difficult sometimes.  Your ways aren’t my ways.  You call me to be different, and I want to do your will.  You are wise.  You are love.  You are the Creator.  You know how this is supposed to work.  You see how it is meant to go.  You know how it is going to end up.

You have control, and I thank you for taking that from me.  You take my burdens and ask me to simply rest in you.  You ask me to take your yoke which is light.  You ask me to live according to your commands.  Help me to do that.

Take my life, Father.  Have your way with it.

Amen

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Image Credit: Pinterest

Read more posts about how to handle hurt feelings.  Also, read more posts about how to handle Satan’s attacks.  The temptation to vent to someone other than Jesus comes from Satan, and you can combat that temptation the same way I discussed combating other temptation from the enemy.

What To Do If You Have a Critical Spirit

You’re in for a treat today – our first guest post on Servant Girl Stories. I am honored to introduce my friend, Leigh, founder of Be Still Mama ministries at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail. Leigh and I met about 3 years ago when she and her husband, Brian, joined our life group at church. Since then, I have grown closer to her as a friend as our journeys as moms have merged. I also participate in Be Still Mama and enjoy working with her to encourage and love on the moms who also become involved in the ministry. She has such a heart for moms of young children and desires to pour into those moms and help lead them to the foot of the cross. Please welcome, Leigh Anderson!

By: Leigh Anderson

Growing up in the cul-de-sacs of a few big city suburbs, riding bikes and managing sticker collections, I didn’t have much to be critical about other than broken sidewalk chalk or a missing New Kids on the Block cassette tape. Or the fact that we got to pick out one “sugar cereal” per month and my brother would eat the entire box in one sitting as soon as we got home. Those were my critical moments, until my life changed one day in the formal sitting room in the front our house.

It was late afternoon, our friends were playing outside, and it was the first time I’d ever felt my chest tighten and my stomach go into a knot as the word “divorce” came out of my parents’ mouths to my brother and me. (Divorce is just as much a part of my parent’s story as it is of mine, so I share this milestone with the utmost respect for them but as a pivotal point of brokenness in my life).

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

The onslaught of changes was not gradual; it was abrupt, and life as we knew it was completely different for all 4 of us mere hours after that conversation happened. I experienced brokenness beyond what I’d ever experienced. And being so young, it was difficult to name it or understand it or tell anyone how I was feeling because I simply didn’t know.

We moved out of state shortly after that, and our new reality was unlike any I’d ever experienced. It presented more challenges than successes. That wasn’t only true for our family but also true within the new community where we’d moved.

Naturally, if people have something in common, that will be the subject of conversations. Our common thread was struggle, and it was mostly what anyone talked about. There weren’t people in our community coaching people to have positive attitudes, to talk highly of each other, to stop gossiping, to lift each other up, or to spur one another on. It was just natural to share the crappy thing that happened that day and who did it. Those were just the everyday subjects of conversations.

Slowly but surely as we lived our lives and grew up, that mentality of complaining or criticizing, something I viewed as normal and right, stuck with me. And I didn’t even realize it was something bad.

I didn’t realize all of this until a friend recently had the courage to shed light on this aspect of my personality and challenged me to really work on it. After talking with her and thinking about it for a while, a light went off in my head. I’ve known for a long time that I struggle with a critical spirit during particularly stressful seasons of my life, but now I know why. And now that I know why – because it’s been a part of my life for 30+ years – it’s time to make some changes.

In Be Still Mama, the ministry I lead, I’m passionate that we all find the root to the challenges we face. If we don’t dig straight for the root, treating the symptoms is a waste of time. When we focus on the bad in others, our circumstances, or ourselves we focus our eyes on brokenness, not wholeness. God’s will for us is wholeness, and we can only have that in relationship with Him. When we focus so much on brokenness, it’s what we ultimately become – broken in our relationship with Him – because we took our eyes off of Him and started staring at everything that’s wrong.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

We form and feed critical spirits within ourselves when we continue to focus on the flaws of our spouses, our children, our friends, or the people we resent. The resentment comes after they fail to meet the expectations we’ve set for them – my husband hasn’t lifted a finger around the house, my friend didn’t respond to my text for 12 hours, my kids won’t listen or obey and they fight all the time. It’s easier to tear down these people in an effort to feel better about ourselves than it is to compliment them on something they’ve done well or a character trait we really admire. When in reality the latter is the key.

My pre-programmed reaction for brokenness is to criticize and wrestle with how that circumstance or that person made ME feel. I made every encounter with brokenness about me, and that’s the total OPPOSITE of what we’re called to do with it. Big no no.

When we encounter brokenness, specifically in people, we have several choices. We can talk about them to others, we can criticize/judge them within our own hearts, or we can make the choice to see them exactly how Jesus sees them.

The reason God doesn’t want us judging each other so harshly is because we simply don’t know what we’re talking about. We see a sin; God sees the heart. We see an annoying behavior; God sees a stronghold. We see poor choices; God sees pain that they won’t let Him heal. Many of these instances naturally become a lot less personal because I’m making them more about God and less about me.

Learning this lately has been so refreshing. It also shined light on how damaging it was to my own heart to operate in a critical and negative way. And as a mom, if my heart’s damaged and I operate out of that place, there’s a high probability that I’m causing damage to my family.

Encourage someone today. Double points if it’s someone who’s recently really let you down. We encourage and uplift people as an act of obedience to God’s commandment for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. You need encouragement; you need forgiveness; you need to know you matter, so give that to someone else today. May we not love in an effort to see what we can get from other people; may we love other people because we love God – as simple as that.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Meet the Author: Leigh Anderson is a follower of Jesus, wife to Brian, and mom to two toddlers. She graduated from Newberry College with a degree in Communications and Sociology and went on to complete a Master of Fine Arts in Film/Television/Media Theory from Savannah College of Art and Design.

Although her plan was to sell everything and move to New York City to take a producer position at CBS News New York, God had other plans. Instead, she spent the last 14 years in professional ministry roles in communications and marketing. Most recently, she was the Director of Marketing and Community Engagement for the Christian radio station New Life 91.9.

After being laid off from New Life in 2014, she became a stay at home mom and through the inspiration and leadership of another Charlotte ministry leader, launched the ministry of Be Still Mama at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail.

You can find Leigh on Facebook at Leigh Baldwin Anderson and at the public group Be Still Mama.

A #parentingfail – Part 4

This is the last in a series of 4 posts where I explore one of my parenting fails – my inability to control my temper when my kids push my buttons.  If you’re just joining us, please go back and read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The following list is a continuation of the tips I shared in Part 3 – helpful parenting tips I’ve learned so far.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Have structure – So much research supports the fact that children need structure (and even want it) by way of boundaries, rules, routines, and schedules.  You don’t have to be rigid, but it is good to set rules and expect that children behave accordingly.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • Delegate/Accept Help – Children love to help, especially when they are little.  They may make more of a mess than you’d like or not do something exactly the way you want, but bite your tongue, be patient, and accept the assistance when they want to give it.  Also, accept help from others – your mother-in-law, best friend, neighbor, husband – especially when you have tiny babies. Give others the blessing of being able to assist you.

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Emery helping me wash the dishes – she was about 3. 

  • Plan Ahead – Things go so much better when I have done as much as I can to prep ahead of time.  Have the kids make school lunches and pack book bags the night before. Lay out clothes the night before.  Plan an entire week of dinners the weekend before. Many of the screaming fits I have thrown have been in the morning before school when someone couldn’t find his homework or her shoes because those things weren’t put where they should have been ahead of time.
  • Respect Your Children’s Father – I realize this is controversial, but it simply has to do with how God wired us as male and female.  Our children need to see that their mom respects their dad. I imagine this can be difficult if there is a separation or divorce.  However, some of the most amicable separations/divorces I have seen have been between people who are still nice and respectful toward each other.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

  • If It Isn’t Working, Change It – Some of this advice may not apply or may not work based on your family culture.  These aren’t written in blood. The best you can do is try them and then tweak them to fit best with the dynamics of your family.
  • Get to Know Your Kids – (a little long.  Bear with me…I promise I will make a relevant point).  In Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God study, the author says, “In every situation God demands that you depend on Him rather than a method. The key is not a method but a relationship with God.“ He goes on to say, “ A formula is not the way to recognize God‘s voice either… If there was a formula… You would not have to seek God with all your heart. You could mindlessly use the formula and neglect your relationship with God.“ I think this applies to our children, (or anyone else in our lives for that matter). If there was a formula for interacting well with our kids, we would not have to seek genuine relationships with them; we wouldn’t have to spend time getting to know them. We could just rely on the formula – those five tips from that parenting article or that list of advice from that veteran mom. This isn’t to say that these things aren’t valuable or some methods aren’t worth your time; however, we shouldn’t completely rely on them. Get to know who your children are by spending time with them. For example, I learned early on that Ethan was an outdoor kid. He likes watching TV, but he LOVES being outside – digging in the dirt and rocks, exploring the woods, hunting for lizards and frogs, running in the yard having a Nerf gun war… That led me to notice that he and I also interact better when we are outside. Coop us up in the house all day, and tempers are likely to flare. Put us in the backyard, and we can jump on the trampoline, pull weeds and smell gardenia blossoms all day! I know this because I have spent time with him – watching him, talking to him, noticing what he likes to do, and so on. Now if we could just spend all our time outside, we’d be best buds!  But, this is honestly one of the hardest things for me. It takes energy that I would rather not expend. It takes listening to and talking about and doing some things that don’t interest me (hello, Nerf gun wars?!). It takes time away from the things I want to do. It takes creativity and imagination. But I have to do it, and you have to do it, as often as we possibly can. This is building the relationship, and this is what our children need most (and it will do us a world of good as well).

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

My son isn’t a bad kid.  More than likely, neither is your kid.  Our kids are just being kids at their stage of development doing what kids do at that stage.  As parents, we have to learn how to work through that as best we can and get out on the other side with our sanity and our relationships with our children in tact.

Above all else, we have to fight every day to choose joy in parenthood, or Satan will steal it.  He’ll lull us into a cycle where we focus on all the things our children are doing wrong and miss all the wonderful things about them.  That’s how he steals the joy in families, especially from mothers.

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Oh man!  That opens up so much more to talk about when it comes to our children, and more I should tell you about my struggle with my mommy-temper, but I should probably move on for now.  I imagine there’ll be more opportunity for me to revisit this subject soon enough.

What situations are most difficult for you when it comes to your children’s behavior?  What makes you “lose it”? What tips and advice have you found to work when you’re in tough interactions with your children?

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Next week is a first on the Servant Girl Stories blog – we’ll have a guest post!  You’ll meet Leigh Anderson, founder of Be Still Mama, a women’s ministry at First Baptist Church of Indian Trail.  Join me next week for her post about what happens when we have a critical spirit.