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Served: A Martha to Mary Nudge

Are you allowing yourself to be served by others?

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Fried chicken and hash brown casserole. Our plane from China touched down, and she knew to dish up comfort. With two newly adopted kids and ruthless jet lag, months of coordinated meals became divine provision.

Weeks later, shell-shocked from a hospital stay and hard news for our new daughter, she brought cheesy breakfast biscuits.

Then came surgeries and more kindness. Next was an unexpected hospital stay, so she organized another meal train. Others have also served with extravagance over the past months. They’ve babysat, held kids and written anonymous checks for medical bills.

Our gratitude has overflowed, but I’ve argued with every servant, assuring them that they were busy, and we had it under control.

In between organized meals, four wise mentors watched as I, on overdrive, managed our new family of six through extensive medical appointments, teaching English, therapies, medical care, attachment issues, homeschool, and gymnastics. It was time to let go of my Martha-like inclination they said, to become a little more Mary-ish.

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what [the Lord] said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her'” (Luke 10:38-42, condensed).

They brought occasional meals and folded baskets of our sheets, each time cleverly bringing bags of M&Ms as a Martha to Mary nudge. My challenge? To spend distraction free time with our kids whose lives had also been turned upside down. From their front row seats, my mentors observed as I danced around offers of help. They looked deeply, saw my overly fierce independence, and lovingly suggested change.

Someone is folding our underwear and I’m squirmy. A mentor tells me I’m stubborn, and I’m offended. They say “Let us bless you as we serve out of abundance” and I still want to fuss. Oh, Lord, I think you might be operating on my heart again. Maybe you’ve been speaking, and I’ve been busy being Martha.

In Galatians, we’re told that we fulfill the law of Christ when we carry each other’s burdens. I think God has been pleased with our burden carriers, but I’ve felt graciously uncomfortable, feeling like they’ve been bearing a load that was ours to carry.

Sensing a lesson to lean in for, I sorted through why we resist care.

  • We’re concerned about our friends, and don’t want to add a burden.
  • We willfully grasp for control.
  • Showing weakness is too intimate.
  • We’re busy and don’t think of it.
  • We see help only from the human perspective.
  • We prefer to serve rather than be served.

We’ve faced challenges these last months, but also been sustained and stretched by care. I now desire to step toward deeper intimacy with the people we love. Micha Boyett says, “Sometimes humility is the riskiest pursuit of all.” I say risky and freedom granting.

Once, one of my M&M mentor friends came over unexpectedly for a laundry pick-up. In the midst of a rough week, I had kids overtired from a round of doctors’ appointments. With fussy little people bathing in a not so clean tub, I had no energy left for masquerading as having it all together. So instead of leaving her waiting in the living room, I took a risk and truly invited her in. That afternoon she sat with me on my unmade bed with the stained quilt, next to my water marked, piled high nightstand and ministered to me by acting unphased by the mess. Water sloshed over the side of the tub, and she got on her knees and wrapped my son in his Cookie Monster towel. It was intimate, and my pretense bound heart melted.

Mother Teresa believed, “The fruit of service is peace.” Marc Driscoll proposed, “When others serve us, they grow in their unique gifting from God, just as we do when we serve others.” Peace and growing in gifts? Yes, of course I want those things for myself and those I love. 1 Peter 4:10 even tells us that we are “good stewards of God’s grace” when we use our gifts to serve one another. Maybe I’ve been making it about us too much. Instead, maybe this is just how we are meant to do life.

Now, as I munch on M&Ms and reflect, I’m listening to what God seems to be saying:

  • The extravagance of my friends is the extravagance of my God. He provides in creative ways, sometimes through a well timed soup and salad delivery.
  • Despite how mightily we try, we can’t do life alone.
  • In some seasons, God strategically places people to walk beside us, serving as His hands and feet.
  • Serving is a blessing, and it is isn’t up to me to decide if someone has time. If they offer, I should assume they desire to be a blessing.
  • Intimacy requires that I abandon my relentless independence.

Burden carriers have lightened our load. While meeting needs, they cultivated truer community. I accept the Martha to Mary nudge, and in the end, surrender to gratitude and the lavish provision of the Lord. In big and little ways, difficult times and normal daily life, I want to let people in, allowing myself to be loved. If a friend offers to visit during a hospital stay or if my mother in law wants to load the dishwasher during a visit, why not? Independence is lonely.

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Rebecca Radicchi is a homeschooling, tea sipping, mother of four. Already moved well outside her comfort zone by motherhood, missions, orphan care and adoption, the Lord keeps taking new ground in her heart. Only able to offer a "yes" when the Lord calls, God's been blessing, refining and stretching her. With the hope that others might be encouraged, her humble response is to share the stories. You can find her recording the wonder, struggles and graces of everyday family life at La Dolce Vita and as a contributor at No Hands But Ours.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Dangerously Vulnerable

I want to live a more uncomfortable, dangerously vulnerable life — even if it means a few “blood-sucking worms” (or much worse) wreaks havoc along the way.

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For those meeting me the first time, my personality can be a little bit overwhelming, mostly because I like to ask questions — lots of them.

When I meet you, I want to know all about you — where you’re from, why you’re here, what you do, where you’re headed … and way more. I want to know: What are your dreams? What is God teaching you right now? What did you learn from your greatest failure? If you could live your life over again up to this point, what would you change?

A total of two of you thinks this dialogue sounds like fun; the rest of you are likely thinking you’d want to steer wide and clear from THAT.

I get it. I really do. Over the years, I’ve become more discerning about, and less vigorous in, my attempts to get to know — really know — a person. Many times, it’s because other people don’t want to, don’t know how to, don’t have time to or are afraid to be vulnerable with me; other times, it’s because I don’t want to, don’t know how to, don’t have time to or am afraid to be vulnerable with them.

Also? Like you, I’ve jumped into that vulnerable space of deep friendship and been burned. So I’ve spent some time on the sidelines of relationship proverbially licking my wounds.

Truth be told, though, when we’re content to move about in the shallows of acquaintance and reticent to move into the wilds of deep connectedness, we are safe from harm but far from adventure. Alone.

And where’s the fun in that?

Let me illustrate.

Growing up, vacationing involved tossing swimsuits, fishing poles, and food into the back of my dad’s pickup truck to spend a week in a rented lake cottage with aunts, uncles, and cousins where we’d swim, fish, swim, eat charred hot dogs with burnt s’mores, and then swim some more.

Thus, upon arrival, it took us kids about 2.3 seconds to leap out of the car, slip on our suits, and splash into to the lake.

Dangerously VulnerableOne year, after swimming for several hours, one of my cousins looked down at her legs and noticed little brown spots. Upon closer examination, she realized that attached to her skin were the tiniest blood-sucking worms!

We all thought that was hilarious. Until we spotted the same little brown creatures on our own legs which caused a mass exodus to the shower where lots of frantic scrubbing ensued.

Mind you, this was day one of our once-a-year vacation, and the thought of spending an entire week at a lake where we couldn’t swim was torture!

But then, my still-to-this-day most resourceful cousin slipped on a giant pair of white tube socks (remember those?). He pulled them all the way up to his knees and ventured back into the water where, lo and behold, he squished his socked feet into the mucky shallows and wriggled past the weeds — without a single blood-sucking varmint leeching upon his skin.

Solidly convinced that our health could be held safely intact by the strength of long, white tube socks, the rest of us subsequently ransacked suitcases for the thickest, tallest pairs.

Except one of my cousins wasn’t having it. There was no way she was sticking even a toe back into that water — tube socks or not. No amount of coaxing or convincing could lure her into our space, and she spent the rest of the week sitting on the pier watching the rest of us play. She. Was. Done.

Now I don’t know how you feel about tiny, blood-sucking worms, but I’m hoping you can see at least the loose connection between our lake experience and relational vulnerability.

Brene´Brown, author of Daring Greatly, describes vulnerability as “uncomfortable” and “even a little dangerous at times.” But she goes on to say that “nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”

I want to live a more uncomfortable, dangerously vulnerable life — even if it means a few “blood-sucking worms” (or much worse) wreaks havoc along the way.

Who’s with me?

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When One Suffers . . .

Just as a physical pain grows and is gradually felt throughout the body, it is the same when one suffers within the body of Christ. We must make a conscious decision to respond to it. A number of choices lie before us.

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Several years ago, our pastor called upon a couple in our church who were celebrating fifty years of marriage and asked, “So, what’s your secret to a good marriage?” Without hesitation, the husband said, “Realizing that we really are one.”

I’ve heard many bits of wisdom about marriage during my seventeen years in it, but that one has stuck with me. Recognizing, feeling, and knowing that my husband’s hurts, stresses, and dreams are as real as my own because we are one is a truth I need reminding of over and over again.

A similar reality confronts us as followers of Jesus in the larger Body of Christ.

Paul put it this way, “…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (I Corinthians 12:25).”

In a day and age where our social media feeds are full of causes and issues to think about, it’s easy to take one look and dismiss a post with “That’s not my issue.” In the Body of Christ, however, this cannot be so.

Because when one suffers, we all do.

I was reminded of this recently while reading Journey to Heal, written by Crystal Sutherland. It’s her story of sexual abuse, how it impacted the trajectory of her life and the process of turning to God amid unspeakable pain. She offers deep insights, practical questions, and truth for those pursuing a continuum of healing for a wound in which scars will always remain.

I felt searing pain in my soul reading her story.

Though I have not personally experienced the pain of sexual abuse, I’ve been honored to walk with several who have. Many of you probably have too. Like every beautiful and worthy thing, it can be a challenge when we’re confronted with the reality of our own fear and pride in such a journey. In theory, we all want to minister the love of Christ to the hurting, but if we’re honest, it can be easier to shut off and shut down.

Author and priest, Henri Nouwen, once said, “Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to a place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.”

Sadly, he’s right.

Just as a physical pain grows and is gradually felt throughout the body, so too is the suffering within the body of Christ. We must make a conscious decision to respond to it. A number of choices lie before us.

1. We can obsess about it

When One Suffers

Raise your hand if you can attest to how dangerous diagnosing yourself on WebMD can be. I’ve talked myself into and then, out of multiple serious illnesses after such “research.” That strategy doesn’t work too well for my mental health. Nor is it a good one for the church’s spiritual health. We cannot hope to be an agent of healing by panicking in fear, relying on our own strength or by going off half-cocked and pelting another with advice that may actually hinder healing. While none of us can be an expert on every subject, we can all walk faithfully alongside one another with the help of One who is. God is fully capable of leading and guiding us in the healing process that He, Himself, started. It all begins by listening to His voice.

2. We can minimize or dismiss it

How many times does a wife tell a husband, “You ought to get that checked out?” only to hear “It’ll be fine.” That response can have disastrous consequences. Just as it has had for the church. Unfortunately, we are often guilty of minimizing the impact of sexual abuse as well as other traumatic experiences with “let bygones be bygones” or “forgive and forget” platitudes. As Crystal points out, “There are no quick fixes or simple solutions. Ultimately, healing is a journey that requires God’s help.” We must be mindful of that in order to walk patiently with another towards healing.

Or . . .

3. We can validate it and seek the Expert

With the power of the Holy Spirit, we can acknowledge even a confounding wound for what it is and do so without fear. To genuinely legitimize the pain of another is a healing gift to the soul. We can do this in a moment when someone shares their heart in social media about any topic or as part of a lengthier journey we walk side by side. No matter what opportunity God puts in front of us, it is always a beautiful one — one in which we can learn from, grow in and war over. The enemy would love nothing more than to isolate every one of us — to seal us in a coffin of fear and shame nailed shut by dissension and division. We must never let it be so.

Our response matters. It is why we must carefully consider it when faced with another’s reality that scares and confuses us. We can obsess about it. We can dismiss or minimize it. Or we can feel it acutely, validate the pain humbly and consult with the The Great Healer, expectantly.

When one suffers, we all do.

Together, we are the Bride of Christ. As the wise husband who stood up in our church said, we must recognize, “We really are one.”

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Served: A Martha to Mary Nudge

by Rebecca Radicchi time to read: 4 min
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