Mothers: God’s treasurers

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 (NIV)

Every mother has been given a precious and astonishing gift: the gift of a child. Truly, I believe every human life is a miracle. And what does the Gift-giver hope that we will do with a gift given? Perhaps, the simplest answer to such a complex question is just this: treasure the gift. Deeply value, deeply enjoy, and deeply cherish that gift.

Jesus’ mother Mary gives us a beautiful example of this. After the details of the angelic announcements of his coming birth and the history of the details surrounding his birth, we are given these words: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19, NIV). Certainly, Mary is treasuring the events surrounding his birth: the words spoken over him, the deep significance of events, the unfolding of God’s providence in every detail of his arrival. But to say that she treasured these things and pondered them is also to say that she treasured him and pondered him. She valued him. She ooohed and aaaahed over him, delighted in him, was his first and most devoted admirer. The perfect gift ever given was first treasured by a mother. What an honor! What an example she is to us all.

And twice in Jesus’ childhood, we read something like the verse above. The second time is a book-end to the first. It comes at the end of the tidbits of description we have of Jesus’ childhood: his presentation at the temple at 8 days old and the response of Simeon and Anna, and later, of his return to the temple at age 12. And Luke records, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Jesus’ birth and growth as a child has two book-ends around it, and they are his mother’s treasuring.

You and I have not been given perfect children, nor will we be perfect mothers, but Mary sets a beautiful example for how to respond to the gift of a child: we treasure, we ponder, and we cherish. And guess what grows in the context of that love? Jesus flourishes. He grows in a completely holistic way—mentally, spiritually, physically, socially, and emotionally. We have this one verse of summary: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Treasuring a child prepares this kind of rich soil. It tills the ground for the flowering of holistic growth. How amazing that we as mothers have been given the opportunity to be the first to delight and treasure the gift of a human soul. What a privilege it is to honor God, our gift-giver, by delighting in the gift of a child.

Ironically, as I wrote this today, my three-year old came up and wanted to sit in my lap. I put my computer down and invited him up. I stroked his head. I whispered, “Do you know you are so deeply loved?” I cuddled with him and admired his recently built creation. I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of this child and for the privilege to be his first audience of delight.

Don’t ever let anyone let you feel ashamed for delighting in and treasuring your child. You take a lot of pictures of him or her? You bet: God made you that child’s treasurer. You love that dimpled chin and the curl of that cowlick? Yeah, you do: God made you to delight in this little one. We are not to idolize our children or gloss over their faults. But we were made to treasure them and in so doing create the environment for them to flourish. So yes, snap another picture, fill another baby-book page, publicly share your joy in who God made them to be. It’s your privilege: you are a treasurer.

Like what you are reading? Share it with someone who could use the encouragement. Perhaps you know someone who would be blessed by a book I wrote to help mothers grow in their faith as they await the birth of a baby. It is called Waiting in Wonder: Growing in Faith While You are Expecting and it is a place for mothers to treasure God and the gift of the little one God has given them. It makes a great gift for an expectant mom!

1000 yeses: Mary’s journey

This is my little drummer boy offering this advent season–to Christ–and to you, my dear ones. What have I to give? I give my heart and these poems, written like separate days on Mary’s journey. I originally intended to give you one poem a day, but time got away from me and I wanted you to have them before Christmas. So, grab a cup of coffee: get cozy. Enjoy the slow journey. And may these words bless you, encourage you, and strengthen you to say your own “yes” to God and remember His most precious “yes” to us.

Mary’s words still lingered
Like incense in the temple:
“Let it be to me… Let it be,
According to your word.”

How the angels bent to hear
Her unlatch the lamb’s gate,
To welcome eternity like an honored guest
In the half-light of a dusty grotto.

How long did the radiance of the angel’s words burn like sacred oil?
Did she warm herself all through that first night
At the holy blaze of wonder?
A chosen one to save, to reign, to fill
The great yawning ache no one could name.

Was she like a sleepless virtuoso that night?
Luminous with inspiration,
Did “my soul glorifies the Lord,” keep her awake
While a parade of future generations marched in her mind, mouthing “blessed,”
As her soul reveled in the firelight of favor?

~*~

How long was it before she noticed
That the angel’s presence had flickered and fled,
Suddenly snuffed like a fugitive’s flame?
How long was it before her words and the stranger’s echoed in the dark?

Favor didn’t feel like bliss in the ensuing silence.

It felt like risk.

Like Father Abraham leaving the land of Ur,
Like outlaw Moses stepping into Pharaoh’s court,
Like once-barren Hannah depositing her boy-treasure in the temple,
Like young David momentarily quivering in the eclipse of Goliath’s shadow.

Let it be to me—let it be.
Would favor feel like stones thrown?
Would it feel like a bridegroom’s scorn?
Would it feel like stares and smothered laughs?

“Elizabeth,” a new thought ripened.
Elizabeth, would know what favor felt like.
If a barren desert truly bloomed,
Perhaps Mary would have faith to say
The second of a thousand more yeses.

~*~

The rise and fall of the Judean path
Mirrored the rise and fall of her thoughts.
“How can it be?” she mumbled again breathless.
“Nothing is impossible with God” filled her lungs.

A thousand times the conversation replayed
While sandaled feet hastened down valley and up crest.
A thousand times she steeled herself in the shadows
To say again the “yes” that had come so easily in the light.

~*~

She held the unbelievable like an awful secret.
She hid the uncontainable in a still-imperceptible curve.
She ached with unquenchable hope and too-human fear.
Yet she craved a sight, a sound, a touch of faith in flesh.

The miles had fled for: “Elizabeth?”
“Mary!” even her name felt like a blessing when Elizabeth spoke it.

Weathered arms outstretched, encircled
As John’s mother plunged her beneath waves of benediction:
“Blessed are you among women, and
Blessed is the fruit of your womb!
“And why is it granted to me that the mother
Of my Lord should come to me?”

Then Elizabeth’s baby leapt just like Mary’s own heart.
Hope cannot be submerged.
It comes up gasping like the twice-born.
And just when we need it most,
Blessing descends like a dove from heaven,
Favor falls lightly like a feather in our hands.

~*~

How often do you glimpse a soul?
The inside workings—the God-meets-man moments–
Of another frail and fragile human being?
Elizabeth beheld it.

Had the magnificent words which rolled now off Mary’s tongue
Been cherished, treasured thoughts held close
In a cathedral of the heart for days or weeks?
Or were they thoughts of that instant that filled and flooded her mind–
An outstretched cup –beneath an infinite cascade?

Either way, the beauty of a soul outstretched in worship,
Is a beauty because it is a disappearing act.
It is all mirrors and light.
In this prism of light we see not Mary,
But God.

Could we all but turn toward the light
Like the shards of broken glass we are
We would be “a city that needs not sun,
Nor moon to shine upon it,”
For His light would reflect and refract
In a prism of broken wholeness unending.

~*~

Three months passed protected for Mary
Like a seed in the warm, dense soil
Of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s understanding,
celebration, and anticipation.

But shoots were not meant to stay underground.
The unfurling of faith is a widening affair.
It pushes out from protected places
To say yes in the harsh light of the open day,
In the scorching heat of skepticism,
In the drought of disbelief.

The hilly path home must have felt longer,
Lonelier, and more terrifying.
Mary’s faith had taken root in the security of
A community of the faith-filled.
But now it must push forth, unfold in the
Harsh stares of her own village,
In the full-light of a fiancé’s face,
In the winds of whispers and slurs.

But faith that breaks the ground can be expectant.
It can hope for the sun which has never ceased its shining.
It can hope for the freshness of a long-awaited rain.
And when grace falls it may feel like the wind of angel wings
Fluttering through the dreams of the one you love.
Grace falling–the yes of God’s unmerited favor—
May feel like summer rain drops dancing on upturned hands.

~*~

Caesar Augustus never waited for her yes.
She was only a number to be counted,
In the place of her husband’s birth.
But God still quietly whispered,
Will you trust the path you cannot understand?

“Let it be,” she whispered, as she took Joseph’s hand
And began the final journey before the babe would come.

~*~

She couldn’t see her sandaled feet
Beneath a belly bulging in hope as she descended
Dusty paths from Nazareth into the Valley of Jezreel.
But she could hear the sounds of Israel’s past:

A shout and 300 jars breaking, here where God vanquished Gideon’s foe
With only their shards of faith and firelight in the darkness.
She could hear Israel’s children weeping where Philistines
Slaughtered Saul’s army and David waited on God for the throne.
She could hear the dogs howling on the heels of Jezebel,
Israel’s enemy fleeing after years of drought and doubt.
Could this princeling she carried bring peace to the Valley of blood?

The hand that felt hope kick could reach out and touch
Ancient gnarled olive trees as they passed through grove upon grove.
Were these the trees that gave Samuel his anointing oil?
Would this Messiah—anointed one—be blessed by prophet or priest?
The tightening waves across her belly reminded her
Time ripens all things, time presses in,
And we groan for the change for which we both hope and dread.

~*~

The grade grew steeper each day.
But each night the endless ascending and descending
Ended, punctuated by a well.
Here at Jacob’s well, the caravan’s buckets stirred ancient longings:
Ancient fears and ancient hopes.

The ache: it came again for Mary.
Was it pain or longing?
The tightening of time like a vise;
What would it bring forth?

Here at Jacob’s well one could not help
But wrestle with fear and hope,
And be broken forever by it.
Here one could not help but
See a long-dreaded enemy on the horizon
And feel the fear flee in the unexpected grace of embrace.
Here at Jacob’s well one could not help
But understand why we make altars to remember
The ascending and descending of hope and fear,
The punctuation of unexpected grace.

As Mary sipped Jacob’s water perhaps she felt a tiny heel press
Into her side, pushing upon her like living waters
Ready to break through stony places,
To gurgle through to the surface with
Cool, sweet refreshment.

Something about this place,
She pondered.
Something ancient, something present,
Something yet to come.

~*~

These ancient paths had heard
Pilgrims songs for centuries.
Songs for the work of ascending,
Songs to pass the waiting,
Songs that climbed upward in joy
As the holy city, Jerusalem, burst forth into Mary’s view,
And Mount Moriah drew the eye
To the temple, where God drew near to His people.

Were these songs lisped like gentle lullabies
As Mary plodded upward?
“I lift my eyes to the hills,
From whence does my help come,”
Were these her songs as the labor pains closed in?
“As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the Lord surrounds his people.”
Did she breathe with labored breath
As Joseph encouraged her that the miles from
Jerusalem to Bethlehem were short?

Ancient songs of faith to firm
The new steps of faithfulness.
A call and echo between generations,
Strengthening her soul to say again,
“Yes, Lord, let it be.”

~*~

Bethlehem, at last,
Bethlehem, alas.
When the hope on the horizon
Flickers and flees like a mirage,
Will faith be a madman’s dream?

No place, no room, no way,
Was this the welcome party
For her whole-hearted yes?

~*~

And so the fullness of time came,
It constricted, it pressed,
It would not wait, could not wait.
Eternity pushing forth into time:
No place, no room, no way–
Are no impediment.
With God all things are possible:
Even limitless condescending to limitation,
Even infinity taking on flesh,
Even all-powerful coming like a baby.

And in an excruciating cooperation
Of will and wonder, the miracle broke through.
Silence broken with a cry.
And in a moment Mary could feel God’s yes squirming on her chest,
A tiny breathing miracle, she’d wrap in swaddling clothes.
Yes, He would not forget us,
Yes, He would not forsake us,
Yes, the Word, of God’s favor, made flesh.
How could she not echo, with every fiber of her being forevermore,
A yes to every question He’d ask her, a yes to the God of love.

Love in a Time of COVID-19: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

Health officials are giving us step-by-step instructions on hand-washing, stocking our pantries and medicine cabinets, and even a meter-stick guide to social interaction. Experts are doing a great job explaining how social distancing can flatten the curve and be one of the most altruistic actions we can take right now as a nation. But when it comes to caring for our hearts and the hearts of those around us in the midst of these most unusual days, I hope these few reminders will be a help:


Stock-pile Peace

God has promised us peace if we ask Him. He doesn’t promise life without sickness, brokenness or frustration, but he readily makes His peace available to us. He invites us to come and get it freely. It’s never out of stock and it’s never too costly.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

Take your thoughts captive (2 Cor. 2:5). Fix your thoughts on Jesus (Heb. 3:1). Take every anxious thought to Jesus through prayer and petition. Over and over again, we are given very active directives on how to war against anxiety. It starts and ends with Jesus. We pray. We fix our thoughts on Him. We worship Him as the One who is better than anything else, who is secure and firm even when everything else is rocking.

Pass the Peace

If you know and understand something of the comfort of God, this peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7), then you have a resource more precious than an N-95 respirator. Just like on the airplane when they tell you to secure your mask first before trying to help another person, if you are breathing in the peace of Christ, you are free to be a conduit of life-saving peace to the anxious and desperate around you. That desperation may not be anxiety about the virus itself, it might be anxiety about finances, the safety of loved ones, the dreams or plans put on hold or broken. Whatever it is, if you know the peace-giver, you can pass the peace. He is the One who gives us hope even amidst devastation of all sorts.


“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. “ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thes. 5: 11)
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn the idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thes. 5:14)

We have seen clear evidence of how a virus can spread exponentially. Guess what? You know what else can be a contagion? Hope. Peace amidst insecurity. Spread it. Infect everyone you know with the hope that Christ is the peace of every age, of every crisis, and of the age to come when all these things are distant memories. Be a vector of peace in your communities.

Social-distancing Doesn’t Equal Relational-distancing

Loving your neighbors well during this time may mean for many of us staying home, not gathering in large crowds, canceling our calendars and cutting back our activities. But just because we are keeping our physical distance, does not mean we need to keep our emotional distance.

Reach out to your loved ones with a phone call, text, email, Facetime, Skype, or whatever form of communication is most comfortable for those whom you love. Check on them. See if you can help meet a need whether it may be physical, emotional or spiritual. Reach out to the people on your street or in your neighborhood, school, or workplace. Listen to God’s Spirit; perhaps someone comes to mind who could use a call or email of encouragement?

Remember that air-mask on the airplane? If you are receiving God’s oxygen flow of encouragement through drawing near in prayer and His word, you are in a position to help secure someone else’s mask.

Love Your Nearest Neighbors

Last, but certainly not least, love well those closest to home. Don’t forget that your spouse, your children, your room-mate– whoever is living within your four walls– is your closest neighbor. They need you to love well right now too. Loving well means casting your cares on the Savior, drawing your peace from Him that you may truly, selflessly focus on the needs of others. That may mean putting your phone down and playing a board-game with your stir-crazy children. It may mean re-assuring your spouse that he is more important to you than your vacation plans or your 401k. It may mean looking past the irritating qualities of your room-mate and focusing on something you like about them or just making a meal together. Who knows, how slowing down, cutting back, and staying home might strengthen your relationships, if you lean into God’s care for you and extend that same love to those closest to you.

To “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) means to care for yourself by drawing near to God so that you can extend that love to others. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean relational distancing. If we look to Christ for our strength, we might find our relationships growing stronger than ever.

I leave you with the words from one Rebecca Arendell Franks, writing from Wuhan, China. She shares how God has been with them in the quarantine. Take heart:

Rebecca Arendell Franks is with Tsungirirayi Tinotenda Chakaza Fisher and 2 others.
March 8 at 3:42 AM
WUHAN. It’s roughly day 48 of the city’s quarantine. We’ve been locked in our apartment complex for many weeks. I haven’t eaten out since January 19. We’re living in such strange times.
After my last post, which was all about locks on doors and further restrictions, my husband asked me if I’ve posted any of the good. But…but… well, but nothing. That convicted me.
So from the epicenter of the coronavirus, here is just SOME of the good we have been experiencing because of the lockdown: (Be warned – there is no way this post could be short.)
Our family life has never been better. Usually one weekend is long enough before I’m ready to send each of us back to school or work. But for SEVEN weeks, we’ve been home together with very little outside influences or distraction, forced to reconnect with one another, learn how to communicate better, give each other space, slow down our pace, and be a stronger family than ever before.
We’ve learned how to accept help from others. During this time, we’ve HAD to rely on others to show us how to get food and other things we need. People here are so good, and they want to help. It’s satisfying to accept the help.
Shopping is so much easier now. It comes straight to our complex, and we just pick it up. Simple.
Right now I hear birds outside my window (on the 25th floor). I used to think there weren’t really birds in Wuhan, because you rarely saw them and never heard them. I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing. It stops me in my tracks to hear the sound of their wings.
Spring in Wuhan is absolutely stunning. God has been giving us glimpses of the beauty to come with near-perfect weather. Because of lockdown, we get to watch spring slowly unfold right in front of us with no work, traffic, pollution, or other distractions. I have pulled up my chair and am ready for the creator’s show.
My cooking has gotten way more creative. I’m cooking like a homesteader. Housekeeping hasn’t suffered, either.
We take naps in the middle of the day sometimes.
We’ve all been reading so much more than before.
I’ve reconnected with lots of old friends. We’ve talked with our families more than ever before.
We still work and do school, but all from home and all on flexible hours. It is not perfect, but it is fairly productive and good.
We are exercising more. Because we borrowed a rowing machine from school right before the lockdown, Edgar Franks has been rowing regularly at home and has lost several kilos already. I still walk in the morning as usual, but I do so with no time restrictions and now with friend Erika Carlson.
In my yoga world, I have finally done a forearm stand. I also share goofy yoga photos each day with a local friend/yogi. This keeps us connected in spirit and movement.
I could devote a whole post to the amazing community we’ve been blessed with because of this lockdown. We live near 4 other staff members, most of whom we didn’t know well at all prior to this. Because of this quarantine, we have bonded with and supported each other in ways that I’ve never experienced in 9 years of living here. (Crowd sourcing for feminine products and coffee, creatively sharing overstock of carrots and squash, etc)
Friday night, we four staff women celebrated Julia Marie Roehrkasse’s birthday together. We four have never before been together without husbands, kids, or larger community. But that night, I felt like I won the lottery in the friendship department. Our gathering was genuine in a way that can only be shared by people who are experiencing the same thing at the same time and understand what each other are going through. This bond we have may lessen when our world gets back to normal, but for now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It is good.
My prayer life has never been better and my study time has been much more real. I have quiet time that is actually (usually) quiet – and I can devote real time to it. Most days I have so much more time to think, to listen, to process, and to discover. I am discovering the good gifts that God has given me and my family. More than anything, I am bowled over by his goodness at every turn. He overwhelms me with his goodness.
We had “church” by Zoom this morning at 10:30, as usual. My husband just woke up from his nap. My kid is reading quietly on the couch. I have the luxury of writing uncensored here on FB. We are about to go pick up a ham that a friend is giving us, taking her our coffee and cranberries to share.
God is providing so many opportunities for good while we are here, and he is showing us his goodness every single moment.
We are at peace in the epicenter of the virus. We are at peace in the epicenter of his will.
Fear is a faithless coward and has no place in the lives of believers. Fear and worry have no seat at our table. We’re here because he wants us here, right now, for his purpose.
Coronavirus wants you to isolate and stock up and take care of your own first. Instead, look to him first while you take care of others. In community, we can do so much more than we can do on our own. God is caring for us so richly and showering us with SO MUCH GOOD each and every moment.
And the song just plays nonstop in my head – Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
It chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the 99.
I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away. Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.
Psalm 118:6 – The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Like what you are reading? Take a look at some of my past posts and books. Don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a post. I won’t overpower your inbox; I just want to encourage you to live a deep and fearless faith.

Falling Short

The other night my husband and I watched a small-budget film. We cringed in places at the writing and acting. While it was clear the film had heart, we stopped the movie more than once to groan over its shortcomings.

Now I’m a huge proponent of doing whatever you are called to do with as much excellence as you can. And while healthy criticism has an important place, I want to bracket that for the moment to share the wave of conviction I felt later that evening as I went to bed.

God laid me flat with this thought: It’s easy to criticize; it’s hard to create.

Clearly, we live in a consumer-oriented culture. Everywhere we go, we are lulled into the sluggishness of consumption. Restaurants, grocery-stores, our televisions, even our churches let us limp along with the false assumption that our primary purpose in life is to lap up the fruits of others’ toil.

But God made us all in His creator image for a purpose: to model Him in creating. And that means everyone, creative types and those who would never apply that label to themselves. God calls each of us to create and bring order out of chaos.

But here’s the rub: to create, as an imperfect being, means to create with imperfections. It means even as we aim, we err.

Earlier tonight, my middle son sat crumpled in my lap in tears. He had labored over a drawing book, emulating a master artist’s creation of a blue jay. Despite my son’s earnestness and effort, his final product was not like the master’s. That gap between ideal and real undid him with shame.

As I gathered him in my arms, did I mock his work? Certainly not. Did I lie to him and tell him it was easily as good as the drawing in the book? No. But I truthfully told him that his drawings showed much more promise than mine did at his age. I praised his effort and encouraged him that even going through the process of emulating the master’s work he was learning and improving. I sympathized with the gap between our hoped-for creations and our actual-creations. And I told him I was so very proud of him and pleased that he was practicing his drawing skills.

Here’s my point. God calls all of us to create. To create is by nature a risk and we have no promise of perfection. But that risk by no means gives us the right to opt out. Like the parable of the talents, we have been entrusted with a sum. The master will by no means be pleased if we bury it in the ground (Mt. 25:14-30).

We consume on auto-pilot. That’s easy. Criticizing? Yep, that comes naturally too. But where is God calling you to take a harder route?

Creation requires mindfulness, effort, and vulnerability. Perhaps the fear and nakedness we feel as we do it, might just be the reason God calls us to it in the first place. “Take my hand,” he whispers: “I’m with you.” Falling short might just mean we have to fall up and further in.

Like what you are reading? Kick back and stay awhile. Check out some of my past posts, take a look at my books on Amazon, and subscribe here so you don’t miss a post. I hope you leave here challenged to live a deeper and more fearless faith.

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