Mary woke up one morning, expecting to marry Joseph, like she had the morning before that. Then an angel came and told her she would be expecting in a whole different way. From small town girl with a fiancé to the mother of the Son of God and a whole new life that was nothing like the one she had planned. How about you? Has your life gone as planned? Chances are, you have also had disruptions and detours and destination changes. Nicole and Sharon talk about all of this and more on today's podcast. We hope it is an encouragement to you.
Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome to the Christmas edition of the Sweet Selah moments podcast. We are so glad that right in the middle of decking those halls, you have decided to stop for a while with us. We hope you will feel refreshed and blessed as you listen today. The Sweet Selah moments podcast is brought to you by Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries.
Hey friends, welcome to the Sweet Selah moments Christmas podcast season. This is episode 25 ‘When God Changes Your Plans: Mary’s Story’. Sharon and I are so excited about these next three episodes. We will be looking at key characters in the Christmas story and talking about how their stories intersect with ours. And we are offering a special Christmas Selah moments section in each episode, as a bonus. I’ll be sharing an idea for moms with children to help celebrate the reason for the season. And Sharon will be sharing an idea each week on how you and I can meet with God in a special Christmas Selah moment. Whether you are wrapping presents or baking cookies or collapsed by the Christmas tree, listening to this podcast, we hope we will contribute to you having a merrier Christmas because you listened.
Nicole, this is fun. I love Christmas.
Well let’s get right to it. We are talking today about changed plans. In a moment, we’re going to look at the life of Mary who thought she was just going to marry Joseph and settle down and have kids and a quiet life in Nazareth. As we all know that didn’t happen. So, Nicole, can you point to a time when God changed your plans?
Goodness, I think 2020 has been the year of plan changes.
But I think our big one, one of our big ones, also dealt with babies. Before we had kiddos, Josh and I had like the five-year plan. You’re going to wait five years before trying to have kids and get some adult things taken care of first. Well, we only made it to three. At that time I was two months away from major jaw surgery. I had, I have terrible jaw pain that they think is caused by my jaw alignment being off. So we were going to do some surgery and hope that would correct it. I had braces on for a whole year. The braces were on to keep my jaw wired shut for six weeks after the surgery. So this was going to be quite an ordeal. And after a year of braces as an adult, I was ready for the surgery. But at this point I was also battling various health issues and I didn’t think we could have kids, or at least I thought we’d have trouble. So I hadn’t really put a lot of hope or thought into kids yet. Just kind of a ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it’ kind of hope. So it was a huge surprise right in the middle of all of that to find out that we were pregnant.
Okay then. Wow.
So no jaw surgery, no big home repairs. On to baby books, huge vitamins, and trying to wrap my head around impending motherhood.
I really like to plan and be prepared and research things before we jump in. So this was overwhelming at first. I did not feel ready. But now looking back, I think that Josh and I needed to be thrown into parenthood. I mean, I love children, but with Josh and I both being firstborns, we’re both kind of perfectionists. We may never have thought that we were ready for kids.
You never really are.
No, right (laughing).
You just might think you are.
Oh my goodness. Yeah. We would have kept adding things to the to-do list before. So I’m kind of glad God just put us…, gave us the baby, threw us into it and we had to just trust him and go with it. And the jaw surgery thing, I was really frustrated with that, um, at the time, but at a consult with the surgeon a few years later, he said he didn’t realize how furiously I grind my teeth at night. And he said that I never would have healed properly from the surgery. It would’ve kept reinjuring. And he said, I’m really glad we didn’t do the surgery.
Look at that.
So I’m really glad God stepped in and changed things cause that could have been pretty yucky.
It could have been. It still could be pretty big and yucky.
I could still be suffering from it.
So you never had your jaw surgery?
I never had it.
But you had a baby.
I had a baby.
And then three more.
And then some more, yes.
Oh, I love it. Well, I think one of the most surprising plan changes for me was actually the founding of Sweet Selah Ministries when I was 59 years old. That certainly wasn’t in my plans when I had thought of life in my sixties at all. I’d been involved in Moms in Prayer for over 20 years and figured I’d just stay in leadership there for the rest of my life. But God changed my plans. When Dad Gamble came to live with us, which was a huge plan change to have him with us and to have to do caregiving for him, I picked up a huge amount of work. And after four plus years of working as the national director for Moms in Prayer, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was too tired. I had no Selah moments in my life. My margin was gone. So I thought I was just going to retire and take care of dad but my friend Lois convinced me otherwise. She’d seen my passion for these Selah moments, these quiet moments, which is why I was going to retire actually. But she thought that God had plans for me to share that message that we need to stop. She even gave me the name. Sweet Selah was Lois’ brain child. Well, the more she and I talked, the more excited I got about this new idea. And out of that excitement, a ministry was formed that now has over 20 people working within it. We have two books and a journal out along with a podcast, a blog, live talks every Tuesday, social media graphics and a speaking schedule. But you know what, somehow we still have time for Selah.
I think part of it is that when you call your ministry Sweet Selah Ministries, you best be doing your selahs. So I make sure I take my selah days every month and my quiet in the morning and my quiet at night. And I have even added quiet in the afternoons. I take an hour in the afternoons too. So I’m all about the Selah. And somehow that makes the busy-ness not feel busy. So God just turned me toward a new path and though the leaving Moms in Prayer was hard this journey has been a great one. Plus I still pray in a Moms in Prayer group, and I probably always will so I didn’t leave the heart of that ministry. I love praying for my grandchildren. So.
But I mean, these are fairly major plan changes, but nothing like what Jesus’ mother Mary faced. Mary’s change of plans was way bigger than either of ours. Her yes, to the change is one of the most amazing examples of beautiful submission to the will of God ever recorded. So let’s read about Mary right now. It’s my favorite part of every podcast. This is our Sweet Selah moment. And Nicole, just going to ask you, would you just read about our Mary?
Sure. Luke one 26 through 38, the birth of Jesus foretold. ‘In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King. David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings favored woman. The Lord is with you”. Confused and disturbed Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. Don’t be afraid. Mary, the angel told her, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor, David. He will reign over Israel forever. His kingdom will never end. Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a Virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy spirit will come upon you. And the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be Holy. He will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative, Elizabeth, has become pregnant in her old age. People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son. And now is in her six month, for the word of God will never fail. Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant, may everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
I so love her response, Nicole, ‘I am the Lord’s servant’. And then, ‘May everything you have said about me come true.’ She just completely submitted, turned over everything to God. She was confused and troubled of course, by this huge shift in her plans and sort of the loss of the simple life she thought was going to have, yet, her response is absolutely beautiful. What do you think she meant by saying she was the Lord’s servant?
I think she was saying from the very beginning that ‘I am willing to do whatever God has for me’.
And that is such an amazing attitude because that kind of submission is a laying aside of all one’s own plans. If God chooses something different for us.
Yep. Just setting aside our ideas and plans and just going with his.
Yeah, yeah. And normalcy disappeared for her. It’s going to look like she had sex out of wedlock.
And back in that day, it was horrifying to do that. There’d be no traditional wedding with all the happy people, you know?
So, and she didn’t know how Joseph was going to respond.
And I don’t know if she loved him or knew him. We don’t really get a feel for that because in those days the parents kind of made all the arrangements. So, I don’t, I don’t know. I think she probably liked him.
She was probably concerned of what he thought anyway.
Yeah. Yeah. Huge shift, huge shift. And she didn’t even know about the living in Egypt part yet.
Oh, that’s right. Yeah.
Which is probably good.
She was probably just wrapping her head around this whole pregnancy thing.
I know. She also didn’t know about the trip to Bethlehem, you know, so many things. She submitted having no idea that so much was going to change in her life and yet what she submitted to was cataclysmic as it was.
Right. Wasn’t it pretty dangerous too? Didn’t they stone women sometimes or wouldn’t they be killed?
Yeah, yes. Joseph could have had her stoned because she cheated on him basically from what people would see and what they would think. And, and if you’re a pure girl, who’s kept yourself pure, to have people judging you incorrectly. And how do you explain to them that he was put here by God.
I think they’re not going to believe me.
No. So they’re going to judge you as being who you’re not.
Right. And you might have to just live with that. Cause you can’t convince anyone.
There’s a little gossip thing that will follow you all your life. So the fact that she could just say, you know, I don’t completely understand how this is going to happen, but yes, just yes. Oh Nicole, this is just a beautiful, beautiful example for us. And if she can do that, then I need to do a better job of trusting God myself and following his plans for my life because his plans are good. And what God did through Mary, in her bearing the Savior of the world was phenomenal.
Because she said yes. So, yay. Well, we’re gonna take a pause from Mary’s story and come back to it in a little bit and talk about how do we celebrate this Christmas season. It can get so busy and so hurried with the, getting the right presents and doing all the right things that sometimes we let go of the most important thing. This story, this very story we’re talking about today, where a young woman says yes to God becoming flesh and dwelling in her body – the incarnation of God. So Nicole and I want to offer our listeners today, some practical tips on how to incorporate this beautiful Christmas story into your family’s life. And we’re going to start with Nicole. So Nicole, why don’t you give us a teaching moment for children?
Oh, fun. So my kiddos are still young so getting them and me to sit still for a few minutes is tough during Christmas time. And also I need simple, if it gets too complicated, I won’t do it with them. So since we have a few weeks before Christmas, I think the most beautiful and simple way to start preparing our hearts and our kiddos’ hearts is to start by reading and memorizing some of the Christmas story. Our dear friends the Groens have the sweetest tradition. They all read Luke two, one through 20 every day with their kids. And after they read the whole passage, they have the kids repeat just one or two verses a day to memorize those. So by Christmas, the kids have all memorized Jesus’ birth story.
They did a video last year of all the grandkids reciting Luke two, one through 20 from memory. And it just brought tears to my eyes to see all these little ones hiding God’s word in their heart. So pretty amazing. I was so inspired by this that I wanted to commit to this for my family and I’m encouraging all you mamas listening to sit for 10 minutes a day and read this with your kiddos and memorize just one or two verses a day with me. If you have very little ones print out a picture of a manger scene or have them play with modeling clay and make a manger and a baby Jesus to keep them still, while you read it to them each day. I’m so excited to do this with all of you. If you decide to do this, let me know so we can keep each other accountable because I need the reminders.
Also one of our favorite Christmas traditions, we got this book about three years ago and it is called “The Truth in the Tinsel”. And it’s a simple little PDF that you print off and every day they have a portion of the Christmas story like we just read about Mary and the angel, and there’s a little craft that you can do along with it. You can make a little Mary and angel and you talk about the story. Now there’s also a little ornament you can make and put on your Christmas tree. So you can have like 30 ornaments. Now we’ve been doing this for five years and we have not finished the book yet.
So we do like, five crafts. It’s great cause we’ve used it. But don’t get overwhelmed just pick a few; go through and pick three or five or whatever works for your family or one. But it’s been really fun to go through the story and get to know some of the lesser known characters, like Zachariah and Anna. But it’s similar to the Jesse tree I’ve heard. I haven’t done that one, but I think you’ve done the Jesse tree with your kids.
We did the Jesse tree when Kathryn and Mary were small, but we had very little money at the time so I did not buy it. I created my own. I bought this cheap little tree about, I don’t know, two foot high. And then I made ornaments and Nicole, I am not crafty. I cut ovals out of paper and drew stick figures on them. They were terrible, really, really terrible. But I would put down what we called our story blanket every day. And they would sit on the story blanket by the little tree and they would hold the ornament, which was just paper in the shape of an oval. And I would tell them the story for the day.
Oh, I love that.
And that was fun. And it was super simple and it didn’t cost money at the time. It just cost a little time but like Truth in the Tinsel, every day, the anticipation built as you saw the story unfold.
And the kids remind you, they keep, ‘Hey mom, are we doing our craft today in story time’? And that’s what is really special. It’s not about how good it looks. If you have to cut it out yourself, just, you know, find something 10 minutes a day with the kids. It’s so good for us and for them.
Yeah. And I love that with the craft you don’t do all the crafts. You do what you can because otherwise it becomes not a happy thing. It becomes another stress.
Right. Another to do that you failed because you didn’t do all 30 days perfectly.
Just set yourself up for success and just pick a few.
Oh, well, I’ll look forward to hearing from, readers. They don’t read they listen. Well, yeah, we have a transcript you could read it.
Listeners could read.
Listeners too. If you try any of these ideas,
Yes, let us know what you do with your kiddos.
Well, now it’s my turn and I’m going to actually share a fairly big idea this week too, because we’re at the beginning of the Christmas season.
Yes, with the most energy.
Our ideas will get smaller as we get closer to Christmas but what we’re doing at Sweet Selah ministries this December is challenging all our followers to take a Sweet Selah day. A Christmas Sweet Selah day, and don’t let the word day throw you off. It really just means two to eight hours depending on your lifestyle. And most of you are going, Oh, ha eight hours. You’re kidding. Two would be hard, but a block of time, that’s larger than your normal quiet time, set aside to be with God in a special way and just soak in his presence. We have, on our website, if you go to Sweetselah.org, a section of the website that is called Sweet Selah days, and you can click on that and we’ll have the challenge set out for you. It’s a challenge and you get a reward if you do it. We’re going to put your name in a hat and somebody is going to win a Christmas selah bag.
Which will be fun. It’ll have my new book in it. It’ll have a beautiful candle in it. It will have all kinds of little goodies as well as the bag itself, that then you can use on subsequent Selah days when you go out. It’s Christmas-y but not so Christmas-y that you can’t use the bag again. So we really worked on that together. So what you’ll do is you’ll find a way to get away for those two hours. You might trade with a friend and have a friend, watch your kids while you watch theirs. You might get a babysitter for a couple of hours and go to the ocean. If you do the ocean or a state park, or even a library. Someplace where you can be quiet and then follow the guide that we have on just discovering more about Jesus, discovering more about Christmas, take some time to reflect and just still your heart and see what he says to you. So that’s your challenge. And we hope some of you take us up on that either for your children or for yourself, so that we keep the heart of Christmas right where it belongs. And we spend time noticing our wonderful God who became man for us. So.
New Speaker (19:08):
I love that.
Okay, Nicole, you’ve done Sweet Selah days. Do you have anything to add about a Sweet Selah day?
Let’s see, I’ve done three so far in various locations and various times. So my first one was my longest one and my friend Jenny watched my kids for me. And then I watched her kids for her when she went. And we usually keep ours to about four hours with kids and with school it’s about the time that we can carve out. And I went to a lake for the day and it was, I think it was fall. So it was a little chilly, but I bundled up and there was nobody there and it was so nice. And then the next time I went to a local cafe. This was before COVID, but I think you can still go in and sit at a restaurant now. And I got some soup and I sat there and I did my little study. And the last one I did at my house, because my childcare fell through, but I put the kids on the trampoline and sat as far away from them as I could outside on my hammock. And I put my earphones in and I listened to Christian music and I just sat there and did, a longer than normal, quiet time. So it wasn’t completely quiet and completely a selah but it was a much needed break in that crazy week.
Oh, that’s lovely. Yeah. I tend to do mine in the winter at home too, just because it’s harder to be outdoors. I usually do take a walk with Bella first, which is so fun and just admire God’s beautiful world and with no agenda other than to sort of applaud God at the nature. And then I come home and I have a fireplace and it’s one of my favorite features in my house. That’s what sold me on it really cause I’d always wanted one and I’ve never had a fireplace. So I light a fire and then I warm my toes in front of it and I shut the door to my office so that I will not go near that computer. I put a chair in front of it, so I will not go near that computer because I’m always tempted to go to the computer.
And then I put on just sort of ambient Christian music and I read and study and sometimes I fall asleep and wake up and start again. And it’s just a sweet quieting day. It really is. I so recommend them. We don’t spend enough time just being with God. And the most important commandment is to love him, which does involve spending time with him.
Yes that does help.
So hopefully this challenge will encourage us, all of us to spend that little bit of extra time just with him, which is what he wants most.
Anyways, okay then there you go. There’s our challenges. Well, we’re going to return now to our wonderful example of Mary, the mother of Jesus, after Mary becomes pregnant by the Holy spirit, she visits Elizabeth, the cousin the angel told her about in Luke one 36. She must’ve been so excited to think her barren cousin was finally pregnant after all those years. Also she needed to talk to someone I’m sure who understood the miracle. And because the angel told her that Elizabeth’s birth(pregnancy) was pretty much miraculous too, going to her would be going to someone that got it. So they both heard, these two women knew that Messiah was finally coming after all the years of yearning and hoping. So wonderful. I can’t imagine the joy they felt being together.
So Nicole, will you read Luke one 39 to 45, and then I’ll close out the passage with Mary’s Magnificat, which means song, Mary’s Song. It’s a triumphant and yet humbled song to the God who changed our Mary’s plans radically. So Nicole start us off.
All right. Mary visits Elizabeth, Luke one 39 through 45, ‘A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea to the town where Zachariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greetings Elizabeth’s child leapt within her and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, God has blessed you above all women and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.’.
The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise. ‘Mary responded, Oh, how my soul praises the Lord, how my spirit rejoices in God, my savior for he took notice of his lowly servant girl. And from now on, all generations will call me blessed for the mighty one is Holy. And he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things. He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For He made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.’ I love that so much.
What a beautiful song.
Do you have a favorite verse? What do you think? What did you like about that?
Oh, I love…, t he first verse is so neat. Oh, how my soul rejoices. Oh, my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior. It’s like, she just burst out with this song. She just couldn’t contain it. I love that.
It is wonderful considering that she’s in the middle of this incredible crisis in her life and all she’s like, Whoa, Elizabeth really is pregnant. I’m pregnant. And she’s recognized the Messiah within me. She gets it. And God, what are you doing here? Just bursting. I love that word. She burst forth in praise, so beautiful.
Yes, it’s just so beautiful.
And she still calls herself that lowly servant girl. She’s like, who am I that he would do this? I just, I live in Nazareth. It didn’t even really have a good reputation. You know, it’s like the place you don’t want to be from, how am I carrying Messiah? And she knew that the carrying of Messiah would mean that she would actually be known. And she is, she says from now on all generations will call me blessed.
And I think she’s stunned by that. I am an insignificant little girl that thought I was going to spend my whole life in Nazareth raising kids and hoping my carpenter husband made enough money to feed us.
And now I am carrying Messiah and people – how far away are we from her now ,two thousand years further – people will still know me and call me blessed. So her humility and her awe and her wonder is just amazing in this song. She gets it. She really, really gets it.
That’s so amazing. Yeah. Think about it. I mean, she was a young Jewish girl, so she was taught to wait for the Messiah. They knew they were all waiting. And to have like, this is the moment it’s happening and it’s happening within me. That must just have been so much to wrap her mind around.
Yeah. So she’s not super worried about what people are saying about her. She’s too busy being: Wow!
Yeah, it’s true.
Which is awesome. So obviously she’s not an anxiety prone person like some of us would be, which is perhaps why God chose her among other reasons. She’s somebody that has given herself so wholeheartedly to him that she’s just jazzed about what he’s doing.
Right. Well, all of her responses are immediately back to God. God, whatever you say, Lord, I praise you. You can just see that she, her heart is, is ready to follow God.
Yeah, from the beginning.
Her heart is his. Yes. And her humility throughout the whole thing is absolutely beautiful. Verse 52, ‘He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He fills the hungry with good things.’ She notices that this great big God cares about very little people.
And he still does. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. So this song that she sang we can sing too. And praise him for his strong arm and his love for the little ones. So, Oh, I love it. So well, let’s pray to finish out this episode. I want to pray for our listeners as we go into this busy Christmas season and I want to pray for me too and you.
Yes, please. I’ll take it.
Oh, Father God, how we praise and thank you for this precious time of year, where we focus in on the amazing event that took place when you chose to incarnate yourself inside human flesh and come as a tiny baby. Father, thank you. Thank you for the humbling of yourself in doing that for us. Thank you for Mary and her incredible testimony to all of us, to be your servants, Lord, to trust that when you change our plans, you have a purpose. So Father, help those with little ones to find their way, the way that works for them to point their little ones to you. Help those of us that are past that and all of us, really Lord, to find selah moments where we just visit with you and, and think deeply on the gift you gave when you became human flesh for us. In Jesus name, Amen.
Amen. Well, friends, we hope you enjoyed this chat about the unexpected changes God plans for us. How about you? Have you had God change your plans? What have you learned from that? Write us and let us know. You can comment if you go to sweetselah.org/podcast. We love hearing from you and we love it when you share our podcast with others. Want to give us a Christmas present? We’d love it if you would write a good review on your favorite podcast app, or how about donating to Sweet Selah Ministries and helping us to defray podcast costs? You can donate securely If you go to sweetselah.org/donations. Have a very Merry Christmas season friends and join us next week for episode 26, Longing for a Child, Elizabeth’s Story.
Speaker 4 (29:55):
We are so glad you stopped for a while with us. This Sweet Selah Moments podcast is a co-operative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah ministries. More information about this podcast can be found @sweetselah.org. Thank you for joining us.
You can download and print the transcript here.