After six hectic tour days, today was truly a soul refreshing break. Strengthened by another delicious breakfast at the hotel, we loaded up the bus and headed toward our first stop: Ein Gedi.
Ein Gedi is a lush oasis in the middle of the Judean desert. After miles of desert and desert mountains, our eyes feasted on field after field of date palm trees (a successful cash crop here). Who knew these existed in such abundance here!
Ein Gedi literally means “the spring of the kid (young goat)” and we saw some of those goats almost immediately! These Ibex are wild and in abundance in these desert mountains, and it was such a treat to see them roaming wild!
Ein Gedi takes its name from a freshwater spring which flows from the rocks over 650 feet above the Dead Sea. When King Saul heard that David was in the vicinity of Ein Gedi, he gathered several thousand soldiers and hunted for David in these very caves. There’s a LOT of history in these caves.
It was in these very caves where David hid from Saul and wrote many of the Psalms (1 Samuel 23:29). We started out the day hiking up to the springs where David spent much of his wilderness time running from Saul.
The morning grew warm and the climb was not for the faint of heart, but we did it! The hidden springs along the way and shade toward the falls felt refreshing from the inside out. It felt like we climbed Mount Everest, so naturally we took a group victory picture!
From Ein Gedi, we headed through the desert to Qumran. This settlement was home to the Essenes, a devout set of Pharisees who moved out to Ein Gedi because they disapproved of many religious practices in Jerusalem. From here they wrote all of the Old Testament scrolls over and over by hand and sealed them in clay jars to faithfully preserve the Old Testament texts. The only book not found was Esther. The scrolls were discovered by a boy in 1947 and have verified the accuracy and reliability of Scripture. Hallelujah!
Then we headed to the Dead Sea! The saline content in the Dead Sea is 37%, which means no living organism can survive in it. The beautiful, panoramic view of the Dead Sea from the highway roads was truly stunning!
We finished this day refreshed and better acquainted as brothers and sisters in Christ. What a most perfect day!
It’s hard to know where to begin when you travel through Jesus’ life in 10 hours. On this crisp 45 degree morning, we began at the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem, which is built on Mount Moriah (the place believed to be where Abraham offered his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God).
Atop this Temple Mount stands the famous Gold Dome of the Rock. The morning sun glinted off of the gold-plated dome made it feel like it would burst into flame at any moment!
As we left the Temple Mount, we walked the Vio Dolorosa, the last steps that Jesus walked through Jerusalem toward Calvary. The route winds itself through the Old City of Jerusalem, starting at a school near the Lion’s Gate and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion).
The old streets bustled with people of many languages, shopkeepers hawking their wares, and street vendors offering a strand of beads for a few shekels. It was a sensory overload as vivid color and noise were everywhere – except inside the churches. There is a Lutheran Church in Old Town Jerusalem and it was fun to see Wayne behind the altar (even if it was only for pictures)!
The Via Dolorosa took us through the 14 stations of the cross where it was powerful to see the traditionally-held places where Jesus was condemned by Pilate, received His cross and then fell under its weight.
It seemed only fitting that such a spiritually meaningful journey ended at the Church of Holy Sepulchre. There has been a church on this site since 326 AD and is believed to be the location where Christ was crucified. Old Byzantine mosaic tiles and beautiful frescos were lit by dozens of suspended lanterns placed there by Christians, Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic churches.
There was so much history and spiritually powerful meaning along this route that I could hardly catch my breath at times.
Finally, our group gathered at the Western Wall for a personal time of prayer and reflection. Some of us wrote out prayers on small pieces of paper and stuffed them into the cracks of the Wall as we prayed (a tradition there). Tears ran down my face as I prayed for the people and situations that God laid on my heart.
We walked out of Old Town of Jerusalem inspired, tired, and awed. Then it was time for Bethlehem! We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch upon arrival, then given a rare opportunity to see how olive wood is gathered and carved by hand and machines.
Naturally, a stop in the shop that produced those items was given! (That’s a post for a different day.) The angels made the announcement HERE! The shepherds heard the message HERE The star shone RIGHT HERE.
The Church of the Nativity sits just next to the Shepherds’ Hill Church, both honoring Jesus’ birth and the proclamation of the shepherds: “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed him in a manger.” Luke 2:6-7
We are back at our hotel in Jerusalem for the evening, marveling at God’s grace, love and provision for each of us.
Today was simply incredible! My morning began by watching the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee as its cool breezes and lapping waves provides the soundtrack to my prayers. As I looked out over the calm waters, the realization hit home hard: Jesus walked on THIS water. Jesus performed miracles on and around THIS water. Jesus preached by THIS water. JOY!!
We enjoyed another incredible breakfast at the hotel, then it was “All Aboard!” in a replica wooden “Jesus boat” to set sail across the Sea of Galilee. The captain welcomed us by turning the boat into an American vessel for our journey by playing the Star Spangled Banner. The American and Jerusalem flags waved majestically side-by-side in the morning sun as we sang our national anthem.
I read the account from Matthew 14 of Jesus (and Peter) walking on the very waters on which we sailed. The captain played several familiar worship songs as we sang, visited, sat in silent awe, or let emotions roll down our cheeks. Meanwhile, these words rang fresh in our minds: And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:32-33
We disembarked to tour through the Jesus boat museum where we saw a beautifully preserved fishing boat that had been discovered and excavated in the 1980s that dated back to Jesus’ day. The archaeologists identified 12 different types of wood used on that boat, indicating its constant fishing use over a long period of time. There is a good chance that Jesus knew or came in contact with the owners of this very boat!
By 10:30 am, we were back on the bus headed to the Mount of Beatitudes. It was a busy, bustling place. Wayne gathered us on the steps facing the front of the church and led a powerful devotion while reading the beatitudes from Matthew 5.
As we drove away from the Mount of Beatitudes toward Capernaum, the panoramic view of the rolling hills and mountains around the Sea of Galilee was simply stunning.
Capernaum is the seaside location where Jesus spent much time with Peter and teaching in the synagogue. Built over the original black stone synagogue of Jesus’ day, the remains of a white stone synagogue stood dramatically. A boat-shaped church has been built over the site of Peter’s home to help preserve it.
We had worked up quite an appetite, so we stopped at a local establishment and ordered the famous “Peter’s Fish.” Yes, they serve it head and all! I’m not accustomed to my food staring back at me, but this was a special exception.
Our next stop was Tabgha, a Byzantine church dating from 350 AD, commemorating the place where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the 5,000. We walked on intricate mosaic tiles that were over 1,500 years old!
Our final stop for the day was at the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. We remembered our baptisms in a special ceremony in the Jordan River. God’s gift of baptism was celebrated with joy, tears, and raw, beautiful emotion. How very appropriate that the Jordan River ends at the Dead Sea — the lowest place on Earth. “Our sins are carried to the depths of the sea to be remembered no more.” Micah 7:18-20
We are back at the hotel on the Sea of Galilee for the night, my mind still whirling at what we experienced today. It is sobering and surreal to walk the very same places as Jesus and His disciples walked over 2,000 years ago. Sweet dreams, fellow disciples.
Following an excellent hotel breakfast in Netanya, Tel Aviv, we struck out toward Caesarea. Along the way, Ori (our Jewish guide) taught us several Hebrew phrases such as please, thank you, and good morning. He also taught us how to count to ten in Hebrew, which was fun to hear recited with Texas accents.
Caesarea is both a nature and archaeological site in Israel. The roads leading toward the remains of Herod’s seaside palace and port were lined with colorful flowers and olive trees. The cool sea breeze felt wonderful as we made our way into the remains of the first century Roman amphitheater, which faces the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
We gathered on the steep stone seats and I read from Acts 10 where Peter shared his first Gospel message here in Caesarea with the Gentiles through Cornelius. “God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” (Acts 10) I love Cornelius’ intentionality to gather his family and friends to hear the Gospel!
Next to the amphitheater are the remains of Herod the Great’s palace, which is slowly being swallowed by the sea. (This Herod was responsible for the slaughter of the innocents as he sought to destroy Jesus as a child.)
We stood in the very spot where Paul made his appeal to Herod to be tried before Caesar in Rome! We walked down the hillside to marvel at Herod’s 20,000 seat Hippodrome that hosted his chariot races. Before leaving Caesarea, we dipped our toes in the Mediterranean surf.
As we left Caesarea, we passed vast banana plantations being cultivated for commercial revenue. It was surprising to see rows and rows of banana trees in the middle of the desert! We stopped to be awed by the architecture of Herod’s famous aqueducts that brought fresh water into Caesarea from 15 miles away.
From Caesarea, we made our way to Mount Carmel. Wayne taught a very thought-provoking message about Elijah and his contest with the prophets of Baal from 1 Kings 18. There is a stunning panoramic view from the top of Mount Carmel across the Jezreel Valley. We enjoyed a hearty lunch with the most incredible array of fresh, colorful vegetables before leaving Mount Carmel for Megiddo.
Megiddo is so much more than simply the future site of the biblical end times battle. Megiddo stands at the most strategic crossroads in all of Israel. Active excavations have uncovered impressive fortifications, including this stone edifice built by none other than Solomon!
As gusty winds and storm clouds gathered around us, I shared portions from the book of Revelation about the epic end times battle as we looked over the very fields where it will begin. Then we made our way down 180 steps into the cool darkness of an ancient water well that was drilled through the heart of Megiddo’s mountain to provide/protect fresh water supplies into the city in times of conflict.
From Megiddo we headed straight to the bustling city of Nazareth (Jesus’ childhood home). The Church of the Annunciation sits where it is believed that the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah. The modern façade holds beautiful carvings of Gabriel and Mary at the top with the four Gospel writers etched below.
The courtyard’s colonnade holds dozens of mosaic artwork pieces donated from various countries which depict the annunciation. The diversity and beauty of each piece took our breath away.
The Church of the Annunciation is a working church, and there was a service being conducted as we entered. Careful to be respectfully silent, we made our way down around the church, marveling at the vast painted ceiling and art pieces lining the walls (once again showing various country’s interpretations of the annunciation). The contribution from the USA here was an incredible three dimensional likeness of Mary.
We descended the steps to view the place believed to be Jesus’ childhood home with Joseph and Mary.
We made our way back to the bus to depart for our hotel on the Sea of Galilee. We passed through Cana as night closed in and saw the church on a hill where Jesus turned water to wine in his very first miracle.
We arrived at our hotel to sit down and enjoy a most scrumptious buffet together as we exchanged impressions about our eventful day. Everyone was dumbfounded at the variety and beauty of this delicious feast.
Walking some of the places today where Jesus walked and spent time as a child reaffirmed the continuity of the past into the present where Jesus still lives inside of every believer. What a beautiful pilgrimage. Thank you, God, for a truly remarkable day!
After eighteen months of planning and preparation, my group and I leave for Israel on Wednesday!
Pastor Wayne Graumann and I will be teaching at various locations as our group of 35 pilgrims make our way through the Holy Land. Here are the dates and locations during our journey:
Wednesday, Nov. 13 – Depart the USA, arriving in Tel Aviv on Nov. 14th Thursday, Nov. 14 – Jaffa, Caesarea Friday, Nov. 15 – Megiddo, Mt. Carmel, Nazareth, Cana, Mount of Precipice Saturday, Nov. 16 – Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida, Jordan River, Tabgha, Church of Primacy of St. Peter Sunday, Nov. 17 – Caesarea Philippi, Tel Dan, Gideon Springs, Beit Shean, Jerusalem Monday, Nov. 18 – Western Wall, Temple Mount, Via Dolorosa, Southern Steps, Bethlehem Tuesday, Nov. 19 – Qumran, Ein Gedi, Dead Sea (swim/float), Jericho Wednesday, Nov. 20 – City of David, Shrine of the Book, Model City, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Pool of Siloam, St. Peter Gallicantu, Garden Tomb Thursday, Nov. 21 – Mount of Olives, Palm Sunday Road, Elah Valley and the Garden of Gethsemane Friday, Nov. 22 – Depart the Holy Land to return home forever changed
Wayne and I will both be blogging (with photos) each day along our journey and we would love for you to follow along. My posts will appear here and Wayne & Kathy’s posts will be here: https://gofarther.me/
We would covet your prayers as our group of 35 walks the very places where Jesus walked. The spiritual growth that each of us will experience simply cannot be overstated. We carry you in our hearts with us!
This past Tuesday was World Suicide Prevention Day.
That very same day, a well-loved young pastor, mental health advocate, husband and father of two, Jarrid Wilson, committed suicide. He had been open with his struggle both through preaching and social media. Only hours before his death, Jarrid tweeted this:
His death sent shock waves throughout the Church at large. His young widowed wife and fatherless sons now face a very different future.
People who struggle with thoughts of suicide don’t want to die, they just want to stop hurting. And it’s a moment-by-moment struggle. For professional counselors and mental health professionals, every day is suicide prevention day.
Many people have asked how to respond if someone is brave enough to tell you that they’re struggling with suicide — or have actually attempted it. Let me share a first-hand account.
Six years ago, five minutes into a lunchtime conversation with a former co-worker, she looked at me with haunted eyes and said: “In November, I tried to kill myself.”
Stunned, I could only stare at my friend, tears welling up and spilling over. She had emailed the day before asking to meet for lunch. Just to chat and talk about a new venture in her life. We hadn’t seen each other in months.
“I didn’t believe anyone cared if I was gone,” she said. “My family dynamics, my health struggles, financial stress – it just became too much. I was just so very tired.”
Her attempt wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. She had researched on the internet an over-the-counter drug that would be a lethal combination with her prescribed medication. She drove to the store, made the purchase, took the pills, and went to bed.
She silently assumed her husband, family and friends didn’t care. That they wouldn’t miss her. She never expected to wake up again. But God had other plans.
When she awoke the next morning and realized her suicide attempt had failed, she confessed to her husband. He was beside himself and rushed her to the emergency room. The doctors informed her she had miscalculated the lethal dose by a mere 200mg.
Looking back on that dark time, she realized that God gifted her with a new perspective. She sought counseling and shared hard, honest feelings with her family. She opened up to her church’s small group, who inundated her with love and support.
After years of struggling silently, she had reached her breaking point. Perhaps you can relate to breaking points.
Her story served as wake-up call for me. I felt as if I had let my friend down. That I wasn’t there when she most needed me.
That experience made me realize that I need to have more conversations with friends about stuff that matters instead of the weather or latest TV program. To ask how they’re doing – really doing– and listen without interruption.
It is easy for busyness to take the front seat, allowing those around us to slip through the cracks under a façade of “Everything’s fine.”
If you know someone who is enduring a difficult season, call them. Send an email. Drop by. SOMETHING. Let them know you care. It may provide a 200mg difference.
We need to keep talking about mental health issues. People are suffering and we cannot be silent simply because it makes us uncomfortable.
I love you and do not tread lightly into this subject. It’s a privilege to pray for you and wrestle through the Scriptures together to find certain hope and strength.
If you are reading this today and find yourself at a breaking point,please reach out to someone. A family member. Pastor. Friend. Trusted co-worker. SOMEONE. Because you are not alone.
You matter. You are worth fighting for. Jesus gave His life so you could live. You are cherished. You are loved. Reaching out for help is BRAVE.
Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and currently on sale at Amazon.
“Everything is okay, Donna, it’s only a benign cyst. But we want to remove it just to be safe.”
Those were the first words uttered by the doctor after my medical examination earlier this week. It’s not cancer.
One evening about three weeks ago, I found a lump on my breast. Breast cancer does not run in my family, but family history is no guarantee when it comes to cancer.
Cancer often seems like a tornado. It hits this house, skips three, and devastates the fourth.
I am very familiar with the C word. My dad died of lung cancer in 2003. I saw firsthand how cancer destroys a healthy body and how radiation and chemotherapy reduce a strong body to a frail one.
Not many of us have been untouched by cancer. It seems like all of us have known someone who has had cancer, currently battles cancer, or perhaps is experiencing it firsthand. I have prayed for multitudes of people affected by cancer.
I bet you have, too.
My three-week waiting period from discovery to diagnosis proved spiritually revealing on many levels. First came the questions:
What if I actually have cancer? How will I manage appointments when I get sick since I live alone? Is my health insurance good enough to cover everything? Am I going to lose my breasts? I don’t want to be an imposition on family and friends. Who will help? Am I strong enough to handle chemo or radiation?
Then came the stark realization that the common denominator in all of my questions centered around: “I.” Talk about a loud wake-up call.
Through His Word, God reminded me of the larger picture. We are ALL on a spiritual battleground, not a school playground. And it’s time to go to war. God leads the charge, not us.
We can fight the fight with God’s Word. We can fight the fight with specific medicine. But when all is said and done, Jesus will have the final victory.
The devil excels at forging weapons of fear and doubt against us. Their effectiveness lies in their unseenness — like an invisible Goliath whose putrid breath invades our nostrils. Fear can paralyze and shut us down, rendering us ineffective on the battlefield.
The real enemy is fear.
Finding that lump caused me to experience waves of vulnerability and emotion. Yet despite the roller coaster, tidal waves of comfort inevitably returned when I focused Jesus. He has never, nor will He EVER, abandon me. I am not alone on the battlefield. Neither are you.
By His grace alone, God gives us the strength to: – wield the Word of God to silence our giants – hold high His shield of faith to deflect fiery darts – stand firm on unshakable faith to drown doubt – identify fellow faith warriors to walk with us – cling to the truth that Jesus gave His life to secure ours for eternity
The ultimate battle against death has been won by Jesus Christ on the cross. But while you and I walk this earth, we are engaged in warfare. And we cannot merely saunter onto the battlefield. We suit up in the full armor of God, fully covered by His protection and grace. Nothing can touch us without His permission.
And when weakness threatens to consume us, we gather faith warriors to remind us of our confession that we believe in God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, suffered, and crucified on a cross, yet He rose again on the third day and sits at God’s right hand. And He will return again.
Battles never arrive at convenient times, do they? Yet those battles never surprise God. We often pray for God to remove us from hardships, but strength is forged through the fire of adversity. Sometimes He ordains that we walk through the battle, His perfect plan ever prevailing, providing assurance that He never leaves us for one moment.
A couple of days after I discovered the lump, I noticed that my “I”-centeredquestions morphed into faith-centered questions:
– Will I trust God during this season? – Will I stand firm on Christ no matter how hard the battle rages? – Will I still see today as a gift without worrying about tomorrow? – Will I take every thought captive to the Word of God? – Will I cling to the Lord as the stronghold of my life? – Will I stand on the Rock of Ages or give in to fear? – Will I be slow to speak and slow to be anger if medical procedures fail? – Will I cast ALL my anxiety on Him?
Only God knows if I would have passed that long-haul test. For now, He orchestrated a future outpatient procedure to remove the cyst and life will continue.
I fully realize that such a minimal diagnosis has not been the case for others. Perhaps your diagnosis, or that of a loved one, was very different. You are living that long-haul test right now. If so, keep these promises close:
– “The power of the Lord is present to heal you.” (Luke 5:17) – “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17) – “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31) – “The Lord is my strength and my defense.” (Psalm 118:4) – “If you ask anything according to His will, He hears you.” (1 John 5:14) – “God did not give you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Not knowing my diagnosis for three weeks was the hardest part. Even if the diagnosis had been cancer, at least the truth would have unveiled the opponent’s face. Something to confront. But I would not have had to face that face alone.
Along this short journey I re-learned a lasting truth: On the battlefield, we need warriors, not worriers.
Our job is to walk by faith and believe God. God tackles the impossible to render miracles — even today. God can make a way when we see no way forward. He already knows the outcome.
We have the gift of today, not knowing what tomorrow brings. So, relying on the strength of the Lord… Keep believing. Keep walking. Keep praying. Keep fighting.
Jesus sees you. Jesus hears you. Jesus loves you. Jesus died for you. And He is working all things for good.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
GIVEAWAY WINNERS: Congratulations to Becky Wehrspann for winning the 150th CPH Birthday Celebration prize from last week’s post! And congratulations to Genevieve Wagner, Karen Hunter, and Virginia Von Seggern for winning a copy of the study guide for my new Bible study Perseverance. I will reach out to you later today!
Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and on sale at Amazon.
Before telephones rang or light bulbs glowed. Before fountain pens, cars, or laser printers had been invented. A full century before the internet even existed, Concordia Publishing House was already producing materials that pointed people to Jesus.
In 1869, CPH began its journey to print Gospel-centered resources for a young Lutheran synod. Everything was printed in German and employees drank beer as they worked. Many things have changed!
As time and technology progressed, printed resources delivered by horse-drawn buggies expanded to electronic resources immediately accessible through downloads and apps.
By the grace of God, CPH is going strong 150 years later because it listens to readers, keeps track of current trends, and implements the latest technology to provide award-winning Christian products.
It has been an unbelievable privilege to write and publish five books through CPH to date. There is a beautiful camaraderie among CPH’s authors because we share the same goal: to honor God with the written word. We routinely learn from and encourage each other.
Now, some people may ask, “Aren’t all publishers the same?” NO.
CPH truly feels like family. Their perspective is eternal. It’s never simply business as usual. Many people at CPH have become cherished friends over the years. We don’t just talk about manuscripts, marketing, and launch dates. We ask about each other, pray for each other and face life’s roller coaster ride together.
When I turn in a manuscript, I know that learned scholars and talented professionals use all of their God-given gifts to produce a doctrinally sound, Christ-focused, engaging Bible study that guides readers toward the very heart of God.
Not every publisher does that.
And not every publisher reaches 150 years young. (This is most certainly true.)
So this is a celebration! And what’s a party without presents? (I’ll let you bring your own beverage and scrumptious cake. Can somebody pass the Riesling, please?)
True to its generous heart, CPH sent me an incredible goody package to offer to one lucky subscriber! [So if you aren’t subscribed to my blog, please do so now.] Here are the giveaway contents:
But a birthday wouldn’t really be a grand celebration with just one gift, would it? So I’m giving away one copy of “Perseverance” to THREE additional subscribers, as well!
To Enter: 1) Subscribe to this blog (you can always unsubscribe later). 2) Follow CPH and me on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram. 3) Share this blog post giveaway on your social media channels and tag me (so I know to put your name in the hat). EASY!
I will draw names from all eligible entrants and post the winners on next Friday’s blog post. You have until Thursday, September 5, at 5:00 p.m. CDT to enter.
CPH’s journey brings this Scripture to mind: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
Thank you for faithfully running the race with holy integrity and endurance for 150 years and counting. Happy Birthday, Concordia Publishing House!
As I drove past kids walking to their first day of school this week, God brought moms to mind.
While kids spend their days learning, moms will spend their days leisurely watching daytime television, going out to lunch with friends and taking long naps until their bundles of joy arrive home from school.
Yes, I jest.
Motherhood is so much more than anticipating unencumbered days while youngsters expand their brains with higher education. You’ll organize a million small things to nurture the welcoming, safe space that accomplishes the big things.
Sometimes I wonder: What special considerations did God ponder as He created mamas? Perhaps, just perhaps, it went something like this:
“I need a nurturer. Someone willing to rise before dawn, cook breakfast, pack a child’s lunch, flag down the school bus, work all day making the house a home, cook again, eat supper, then go upstairs and stay up past bedtime reading stories to eager ears.”
So God made a mama.
“I need someone willing to sit up all night with a sick child, and nurse them back to health with boundless love. Somebody who can cheer loudest, sew a new dress from scraps, demonstrate how to twirl, make play dough from scratch, and teach a round-eyed pre-schooler how to build a castle.”
So God made a mama.
It needed to be someone who could tie a ponytail holder from pipe cleaners, bread ties and curly ribbon and will finish her 40 hour work week by Tuesday supper, then clear the dishes and sit back down with her children to log another 50 hours checking arithmetic, sounding out vowels, and calling out spelling words.
So God made a mama.
“I need somebody strong enough to discipline when necessary, yet gentle enough to push a swing, decorate cupcakes, trim a Christmas tree, and kiss a scraped knee. Somebody who forgives transgressions with a smile, defends her child against a harsh world, yet stops her car in traffic to patiently wait for stray ducks to cross.”
So God made a mama.
It had to be somebody who would love deeper than the oceans and see the glass half full. Somebody to bake, make, wake, support and encourage and chauffeur and teach and plant seeds and keep singing through the hard times. Somebody who would teach them about Jesus, how to serve others and be kind and brave, and wrap a family together tight with the soft, strong bonds of prayer.
So God made a mama.
And one day long hence, dear mamas, when they visit you during college breaks, you will chuckle, and then sigh, and be speechless with tear-filled eyes, when your child says with a thankful heart that some day they want to be a parent — the best mama they can be — just like you.
As another school year begins, it is my delight to heartily applaud and fervently pray for all of you incredible mamas as you do the hard work, the important work, the necessary work that few people see of being the best mama God made you to be.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed.” Proverbs 31:25-28
Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.
During a leisurely lunch with three dear friends some time ago, horror stories and scars surfaced around two familiar topics.
Among the four of us, two are married with children, one has never been married or had children, and one is divorced with no children. We range in age from 35-51 and are committed Christ followers.
First, I need you to know something. This post took significant time to write and pray through because it’s rather blunt about sensitive topics.
This post isn’t a vent — it’s a plea borne out of loving others. That being said…
Throughout our adult lives, my three friends and I have been asked two questions so many times that we’ve lost count. To this day, we remain flabbergasted that some women haven’t caught on. There are two questions that plainly shouldn’t be posed to another woman — unless she’s your BFF or a close second.
Question #1: Why aren’t you married?
Stated like that, this question isn’t really a question. It’s a judgment.
Since I didn’t get married until I was 29, I fielded that question a LOT of times. We met when I was 23, dated for two years and were engaged for four years while he finished post-graduate college. During those six years, if we would have collected $1 from each woman who asked me why I wasn’t married yet, we could’ve easily paid for the wedding and honeymoon four times over.
As our conversation continued, my three friends and I realized that more often than not this question was posed by married women. That’s tantamount to a millionaire asking an unemployed person why they aren’t buying a mansion.
Even if asked in a caring or flattering way (perhaps she thinks highly of you), it still stings. Believe it or not, some women ask it to intentionally inflict emotional or social harm. And trust me, those on the receiving end can tell the difference.
I’ve also been asked innumerable times since my divorce nearly ten years ago why I have not remarried, along with who, when and whether or not I am dating. Frankly, the answer is entirely too personal to discuss nonchalantly with casual acquaintances. So I never bother.
Last month, a Christian friend whom I hadn’t communicated with in a while asked about my dating status. When I responded that I was not seeking to be in a relationship, she typed a stunning one-word response: “Disobedient” — immediately followed by, “You’re not a nun.”
Wow. Currently, I am more content in Christ, peaceful and purpose-filled than at any other time in my adult life. But she didn’t ask about those things. She simply judged one aspect as the whole story and moved on.
If you are single, divorced or widowed, perhaps you need to hear this today: God gave marriage as a blessing, not an entitlement or commandment. He did not create us as half a person seeking another half to “complete” us. We are whole and complete in Christ alone. The rest is all grace.
I loved serving God as a married woman. I love serving God as a single woman. Simply put, God calls some women to serve through their marriage and others through undistracted singleness. The key is a passion to love and serve God no matter your marital status.
And the second question…
Question #2: Don’t you want children?
Again, stated like that, this isn’t a question. It’s a judgment.
This question has caused more scars in my life (and my three friends) than any other. It presupposes so many things that it’s hard to know where to begin addressing it.
Asking a single woman that question is cruel — whether intentional or not. Perhaps having children has been a lifelong, unfulfilled dream that has cost her many sleepless nights and a river of tears. What if she believes marriage should come first? Should she rush out to the nearest bar and hook up with the first man she sees? Should she rush to the sperm donor bank and sign up?
Asking a married woman that question presupposes that she is physically able to bear children. Perhaps she and her husband have tried to conceive children for years only to face financial hardships due to unsuccessful fertility treatments. No woman should ever be expected to share her private struggles or physical condition to justify why her home isn’t overflowing with children.
My ex-husband and I were married for thirteen years, but didn’t have children. We trusted God’s plan that if He wanted us to have children, He would provide. I believe we would have been wonderful parents. But now looking back on divorce, I believe God knew best.
Some people have pulled out the Christianity card. “God designed women to have children, so you’re disobeying if you don’t have them.” Yes, people have actually had the audacity to say such an unkind thing to me and my three friends in the past. And when such a statement comes from someone we hold dear, the wound plunges deep.
Some people have played the adoption card. “So many children need good homes, why aren’t you willing to adopt?” Stated like this, that question is also a judgment. Perhaps she is, in fact, willing to adopt, but is still thinking and praying through the many considerations of such a monumental commitment.
Simply put, no woman owes another an explanation to these two extremely personal questions. Over time, I’ve learned to smile and deflect the tension. However, the pain inflicted still takes significant prayer, extending relentless forgiveness, and time for God to heal.
The bottom line?Those two questions negate God’s sovereignty. They infer that we need to follow cultural norms or our own plans instead of submitting to His. If no one has ever asked you either question, you are among the blessed minority.
If you are unmarried or do not have children, please hear this truth loud and clear:
Despite your marital or parenting status, God loves you right now. Just as you are. Precisely where you are. You can joyfully, successfully serve him today.
Following God isn’t about conforming to some cultural mold of how others believe our lives should look. Remember the Apostle Paul? The Apostle Peter? One was married, one was not; one had children, one did not — but they made a powerful difference for God’s kingdom from their individual, God-designed circumstances.
God can use any person at any time in any place for His holy purposes.
No tangible thing on this earth makes us more or less of a Christian. Following Christ never hinges on whether or not we’re married or have children. It’s about being in relationship with Him. It’s about our desire to know Him and be fully known by Him. To rely on Him for our every need. To receive His immeasurable love and amazing grace into the deepest recesses of our soul with overwhelming gratitude.
So to my fellow women who have been on the receiving end of these two questions: I love you. I know what it feels like and I’m so sorry for your pain.
And to those women who believe it’s okay to keep asking another woman either of those questions, STOP.
They damage — and even kill — friendships.
*These wonderful friends are not members of my home church. They read this post when I originally wrote it and gave permission to share the generalities of our discussion in the hope of shedding much needed light on this sensitive topic.*
Donna’s brand new individual and small group Bible study: “Perseverance: Praying Through Life’s Challenges” (based on the book of Nehemiah) is now available through Concordia Publishing House and Amazon.