Author: Mary Jo Tate

God’s Purposes or Ours?

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.Proverbs 19:21

In my early years as a mother, I was often overwhelmed by the enormous responsibility combined with the unpredictability of babies and toddlers. Nothing in my academic or professional life had prepared me for this challenge!


I tried to control the chaos by creating systems of planning, goal setting, and time management. That’s a rather grandiose way to describe my early hand-scrawled lists taped to the wall above our kitchen table so I could try to keep track of everything. I found so much satisfaction in accomplishment that I sometimes wrote down tasks I had already completed just for the pleasure of crossing them off the list!

Over the years my system became more elaborate, with carefully categorized daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and life plans. I developed a home study course for sharing it and began speaking about how to get things done. It was thrilling to discover that my system worked well for other people too.

But a system isn’t enough.

Lists, charts, and schedules can be wonderful tools to help us be good stewards of our time and our lives. But I’ve learned that while plans are good servants, they can be terrible masters. We can become so focused on checking tasks off our lists that we run roughshod over the people around us. Our plans can even become idols. Successful planning can create pride, arrogance, and an illusion that we really are in control . . . but we’re not. Our days and hours are ultimately in God’s hands, not ours.

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. — Proverbs 16:9

So should we just throw planning out the window? Not at all. The important thing is our heart attitude—our willingness to trust God’s providence and lean on His guidance . . . even when life doesn’t follow our plans. How we handle interruptions is a good way to gauge this.

We must pray for discernment to know how to respond to each situation. Sometimes the appropriate response is to ignore an interruption and continue the task at hand. At other times, an interruption is a signal to be sensitive to God’s timing and to recognize an opportunity to serve someone who really needs us. C. S. Lewis said, “What one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day.” This realization has softened and enriched my overachiever approach to planning.

English nun Janet Erskine Stuart’s attitude provides a wonderful reminder of how God’s providence applies to interruptions. Her assistant’s explanation convicts and encourages me, and I hope it will do the same for you:

She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship, was securing the accomplishment of His will, and working out His own designs. Whether she traced the secondary causes to the prayer of a child, the imperfection of an individual, to obstacles arising from misunderstandings, or to interference of outside agencies, she was joyfully and gracefully ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it. (Maud Monahan, The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart, 93)

Hope in God Alone

Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the LORD. – Psalm 31:24

Where is your confidence? Where do you place your hope?

hope in God

Although I’ve been a Christian since I was seven years old, I often unconsciously placed my confidence in myself and my circumstances rather than in God. I’ve always been a capable, can-do problem solver, so when things were going well, it was easy to think it was because I had my act together. 

My self-confidence was shattered, however, when my husband of 15 years left me with four sons, ages 9, 6, 4, and 6 months. I wasn’t capable of handling this. My can-do became can’t-do. This was a problem I couldn’t solve. As a single mom, I had to rely on God in a new way and place my hope in Him alone.

The truth is that none of us can rely on ourselves; when we do, we’re only fooling ourselves.

But God’s grace is sufficient for us, for His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I once heard a pastor say that suffering shifts our hope from something that is uncertain to something that is certain. 

The Bible describes hope in God as “an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19, NASB). People and circumstances are uncertain, yet we can safely place our confidence in God, knowing that His faithfulness is certain.

Are things going well for you? Thank God for His sovereign provision, and avoid the trap of placing your confidence in yourself. Are times hard? Are you tempted to despair? Place your hope in the wisdom and goodness of God.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. – Psalm 42:5 

Hope in suffering

Hard times are a necessary reminder to hope in God. And if we heed that reminder, we can build the habit of hoping not in ourselves, not in other people, but in God alone—in both bad times and good.

Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, According as we have hoped in You. – Psalm 33:20–22

The Lord Will Provide

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19

When I saw that the theme for July was God’s provision, my mind instantly went back to my early years as a single mom and the many ways God supplied our needs through His people. I want to share some of those stories here to give glory to God, to give you hope if you are going through hard times, and to encourage you to be the means through which God provides for others who are in need.


My sons were 9, 6, 4, and 6 months old when my husband left. I was shocked, angry, scared, and embarrassed to be divorced, but my biggest concern was how I was going to provide financially for my family while remaining at home and continuing to homeschool my children. God proved His faithfulness over and over again—often through the ministry of our church family, especially in those early years of adjusting to a new life and building my home business.

The deacons’ fund provided financial assistance to my family several times, and individual church members sent us cash and gift cards—sometimes routing these blessings through the church office to remain anonymous. God’s providential care clearly orchestrated the timing of such help. During seasons of comparative bounty, financial gifts rarely arrived. However, when we needed help most, assistance miraculously appeared—even when I had told no one about our situation.

. . . your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8

One lady in our church gave me three beautiful new outfits when my wardrobe was getting shabby. Another time I found a department store gift card in my mailbox—with instructions to use it for myself, not my children. The gift was more than enough for the new suit I needed for a conference where I was scheduled to speak, and it served as a precious reminder of God’s faithfulness in clothing not only the lilies of the field, but also His children (Matthew 6:28–30).

A family in our church gave us a brand-new train table for the boys to use with their wooden train set, saving me the time and expense of Christmas shopping as well. Another friend asked me for a list of my children’s favorite Christmas candy and showed up with a large bag of stocking stuffers every December. Our pastor taught me how to build a fire in our wood stove, and several families supplied us with firewood for over a decade.

God’s provision doesn’t come only in the form of money or material things, however. The gift of time is also a tremendous blessing. When I moved to be in the same town as our church, several ladies helped me pack my kitchen, and others helped me clean the new house before we moved in. On moving day, church members helped load, move, and unload our belongings, while others cared for my children in their homes.

One of the most precious ways God provided for us was through two dear ladies from our church who came to our house for two to three hours one afternoon every week so that I could go to the grocery store and run other errands without four boys in tow. They became my friends and blessed me immeasurably, but they also ministered to my children by reading to them, playing games with them, bringing treats, and showing them God’s love.

Are you going through hard times? Remember that God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Are things going well for you? Thank God for His provision, and look for ways that you can bless others in His name.


May we sing with John Newton:

The birds, without garner or storehouse, are fed;
From them let us learn to trust God for our bread.
His saints what is fitting shall ne’er be denied
So long as ’tis written, “The Lord will provide.”

Choose Peace

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! – 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Is your life peaceful or chaotic? How much of that is something you can change, and how much of it is beyond your control?

choose peace

We can choose peace in three ways: (1) orchestrating it in our daily routine, (2) prioritizing it in special circumstances, and (3) surrendering to God’s sovereignty in circumstances beyond our control.

First, we can choose peace by orchestrating our daily routine to promote peace. I just saw a lovely example of this while visiting dear friends in Washington state. When the husband comes home from work each afternoon, he and his wife sit down for an hour or so to talk, read, and drink hot tea. They schedule this peaceful time to reconnect before they jump into discussing any problems, issues, and tasks, and it’s a beautiful thing. Their children are grown and gone, so a ritual like this would look different in a home full of young children. But look for ways you can orchestrate peace by building it into the routine of your daily life.

Second, we can choose peace by prioritizing it in special circumstances. I often speak and write about how to find peace in the space between the ideal and reality. It’s one of the most important things I teach. Ideally, we’d like to do and be and have everything we can dream of, but realistically, we can’t do it all. However, we can make choices that promote peace.

For example, on my recent trip to Washington and Oregon, I had an ideal itinerary with a long list of beautiful places I wanted to visit. Toward the end of my trip, I was worn out by speaking at a homeschool convention and a busy sightseeing schedule. Realistically, I had to reserve some energy for book editing projects that awaited me when I returned home. When I evaluated my sightseeing options for the final three days, I realized that two destinations were no longer appealing because the logistics were too complicated. Considering them made me tense instead of relaxed. Instead of frantically trying to cram in more, more, more, I prioritized peace by choosing one simple day trip—a whale-watching excursion in the San Juan Islands—that was a delightful end to my Pacific Northwest adventure, and I returned home refreshed rather than exhausted.


Another example of how we can prioritize peace is refusing to engage in unnecessary conflict. How often have we destroyed our own peace, and that of others, by engaging in vehement debates on Facebook and other online forums? Sometimes it’s important to stand up for truth, but more often than not, we’re simply picking fights or taking the bait. I am learning to just back away from discussion threads that are draining rather than uplifting.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.Romans 12:18

Third, sometimes circumstances are beyond our control, and things are more complicated than simply planning a peaceful routine and making peaceful choices. Maybe there’s a death or serious illness in the family. In these situations, we can choose a peaceful response to the chaos by trusting God and surrendering to His sovereignty. When there is no peace in our circumstances, we can rest in His peace, knowing that He works all things—even hard things—together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6–7

Humility – Judging Ourselves by the Right Standard

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33

Comparison is a vicious trap, and moms are especially vulnerable to it. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others and respond with either pride (I’m better than she is!) or false humility (I’m worse than she is!).


Pride is comparing ourselves to others and having an excessively high view of ourselves—an arrogant sense of superiority. It can involve boasting about ourselves or judging others, and both are wrong. Boasting is saying, “Look what I did! I’m better than you!” Judging is saying, “I can’t believe what you did! I would never do that. You’re worse than I am!” They’re two sides of the same coin.

Having a double standard is often a source of pride. We judge ourselves by a low standard, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt when we fail. Yet we judge others by a high standard, assuming they have bad motives and no legitimate excuses. For example, if we are speeding, we justify it by saying that we’re running late through no fault of our own, but if we see others speeding, we judge them for breaking the law. I was really convicted of this double standard recently when I justified missing a deadline because of circumstances beyond my control, but I was offended by another team member missing a related deadline and jumped to the conclusion that she just didn’t care or work hard enough.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t we hold ourselves to a rigorous standard and give others the benefit of the doubt? We can’t know or judge other people’s motives, but we must judge our own motives and actions with clarity and honesty. Romans 12:3 tells us, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

False humility is actually another form of pride. It’s comparing ourselves to others and having an excessively low view of ourselves—a self-deprecating sense of inferiority. A classic example is Uriah Heep in David Copperfield, who was proud of being so “umble.” False humility is looking at others and saying, “I’m worse than you are!” It’s often a backhanded way to invite others to build us up and tell us how great we actually are.

So what is genuine humility? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” Both pride and humility are rooted in comparison and judgment; the difference is the standard by which we judge ourselves and others.

Pride and false humility are based on comparing ourselves to other people and judging by that false standard. True humility, however, is based on comparing ourselves to God’s Word and judging by that standard. While pride is an inappropriately high view of ourselves and false humility is an inappropriately low view of ourselves, true humility is an accurate view of ourselves according to Scripture.

true humility

Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

 “The fear of the Lord” is having a reverential awe of God. We must know who God is to know who we are. Part of pride is caring too much about what others think of us instead of what God thinks of us. Humility requires that we don’t compare ourselves to other people but to God’s Word. Only then will we judge ourselves accurately.

Don’t measure yourself by Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook. Instead, measure yourself by the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–17), the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12), and the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). Judging ourselves by God’s Word creates true humility and reminds us of our utter dependence on Him.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3


Where Do You Place Your Faith?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.Proverbs 3:5

“You are enough.” “Believe in yourself.” “Have faith.”

These are popular messages for moms, and I can certainly understand why.

Where do you place your faith

Moms are struggling. We’re overwhelmed by all we have to do, and there’s so much at stake. We compare ourselves with other moms we’re sure are doing a MUCH better job than we are, and we start to feel like failures. We desperately need encouragement, and motivational speakers and writers are eager to provide it. “You are enough” blog posts go viral, and everyone feels better.

But let’s pause for a moment and ponder what “you are enough” really means. It’s intended to be reassuring. However, if we analyze the words, the message is actually discouraging, not encouraging. If we are supposed to be “enough,” doesn’t that place more of a burden on us? If we are “enough,” everything rests on us. That’s a daunting responsibility, and I’m not up for it. Are you?

Being a good mom is tough. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t confess that some days I really don’t know how I can make it. There’s just not enough of me to go around. Sometimes I wrestle with exhaustion, discouragement, loneliness, and frustration. I know you do too.

When times are hard—whether there’s a major crisis or just One More Thing that puts us over the edge—we have three options:

  1. Focus on the situation and our own inadequacies. Flounder in the problem. Feel like pathetic failures. Obviously, this isn’t a good solution, and that’s exactly why we need help and hope.
  2. Celebrate our own strength. Believe in ourselves. Buy into the “you are enough” mindset. Think we can do it all—or at least that whatever we can manage on our own just has to be good enough.
  3. Trust in God, not in ourselves. The truth is that we CAN’T bring up our children well by relying on our own power. But God’s grace is sufficient for us, for His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

worthy of our faith

Faith is meaningless unless the thing we have faith in is truly worthy. Only God is worthy of our faith. Only He is worthy of our trust. Only He can give us the strength we need for the job of mothering.

When times are hard—whether the challenge is big or small—don’t wallow in feeling like a failure, yet don’t rely on the false hope that you are enough. Instead, focus on the love and providence of God. Turning your eyes to Him will help you remember to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).

And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – I Corinthians 2:4-5


Rejoice in the Lord Always

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

I can hardly believe that my boys have grown up. They’re 16, 20, 22, and almost 25, and only two of them still live with me. I treasure every moment with them, realizing that the opportunity is so very fleeting. I take great joy in spending time with them, learning what’s going on in their lives, hearing what’s on their hearts.

joy in the Lord

But it wasn’t always that way. I always wanted to be a mom, so I was delighted to be blessed with children and thankful for the privilege of being at home with them. Yet in the early years of motherhood, I was so overwhelmed by the exhaustion, the loneliness, and—yes, I’m going to say it—the drudgery of many daily tasks from diapers to dishes to dirty laundry that I seldom acted like a “joyous mother of children” (Psalm 113:9). I regret the time I wasted in weary work rather than cheerful service, focusing on the burdens instead of the blessings.

I know I’m not the only mom who has experienced this. And it’s not limited to the early years, either. One tired mom told me she had always enjoyed her children on a daily basis and had felt blessed and joyful with them, but lately her joy was being sapped by an overwhelming sense of not getting done what needed to be done.

Have you ever felt that way? Blessed in theory but burdened in practice? It’s so easy to focus on the urgent to-do list and lose sight of our highest priorities. Maybe you’re struggling with this very situation right now. If so, I urge you not to load on another burden of guilt but to change your perspective and focus on the tremendous blessings God has given you.

Focusing on the blessings instead of the burdens doesn’t change your circumstances; it changes you. And when your attitude changes, your experience changes.

Those diapers? A reminder of the children God has given you. You’re probably tired of hearing this (I was!), but they’re little for such a short time. Don’t wish away those labor-intensive baby and toddler years. Relish those coos and cuddles and depend on God for the strength to carry on during hard days. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Those dishes and that dirty laundry? A reminder that God provides your food and clothing, just as he feeds the birds and clothes the lilies (Matthew 6:25-34). Rejoice in His provision.

joy in the lord

Take joy in your children, yet remember that our ultimate joy is that we are God’s children. As David reminds us, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Whether your children are young or old, whether your days are easy or hard, whether you’re overwhelmed or productive, whether you’re feeling happy or sad—whatever your circumstances, whatever your mood, rejoice in the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. ~ Philippians 4:4



Praise God for His Steadfast Love!

For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!Psalm 117:2


It’s February. Write about love. Great.

I’m perfectly happy to write about loving God, loving your family, loving your neighbor as yourself. But think about love in February, and romantic love is the first thing that springs to mind. And I can think of at least 3,497 topics a single mom would rather write about than romantic love.

Back at the turn of the millennium, I was a typical homeschooling mom, married with four sons under age nine. When my husband left us in early 2001 to live with another woman, I was shocked, angry, and scared. How could this happen to ME?

I was embarrassed to be divorced. I felt as if a scarlet D were fastened firmly to my dress. Mostly I felt rejected. Being unloved quickly shifts into feeling unlovable.


God's love never changes

But our lovableness—our worth, our value—does not come from man. It comes from God, who loves us so much that He gave His only Son to save us (John 3:16). THAT is love!

I searched the Bible for the word love, and it shows up 551 times in the English Standard Version. That was no surprise. What really grabbed my attention was the frequent appearance of the word steadfast to describe God’s love. In fact, the phrase steadfast love shows up 194 times!

Other translations describe steadfast love as lovingkindness or unfailing love. The dictionary defines steadfast as “firmly fixed in place; immovable; not subject to change.” How wonderfully reassuring! God’s love for us is firmly fixed, immovable, not subject to change.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.Isaiah 54:10

In this fallen world, human love often changes or ends. But God’s love never changes and never ends.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!I Chronicles 16:34

When people fail you, remember that God is always faithful. When you feel unloved, rest in God’s steadfast, unfailing love!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22–23

steadfast love

Like the Psalmist, may we praise God for His steadfast love!

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:3

We hope this devotional series is blessing you in your motherhood and your walk with the Father. Please enjoy this printable coloring page, take a few minutes to slow down…breathe…remember. His steadfast love never changes.
Be blessed! 

Praising God at All Times

Motherhood is exhilarating, exhausting, creative, challenging, delightful, discouraging, fulfilling, frustrating, happy, heartbreaking, satisfying, and sacrificial. And we are to praise God in all of that.

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. ~ Psalm 34:1

Praise God

As a young mother, many years ago, I was so caught up in the never-ending tasks of motherhood that there was little space in my mind, my schedule, or my heart for anything else. I was exhausted and overwhelmed, so I focused on just making it through the next day or even the next hour. It is humbling to recall how little God was on my mind, much less how seldom His praise was in my mouth. A desperate prayer for help was often all I gave Him.

Do you ever feel that way? Are you caught up in the busyness of mothering? Worn out by the workload? Focused on the ups and downs? Daunted by the daily routine? Praise God in it all and for it all, for He is worthy of our praise.

Praising God takes our focus off ourselves and turns our thoughts to Him. He is sufficient for every challenge we face.

Praise God

When you are weak and weary, praise God for His power.

When you feel like a failure, praise God for His righteousness.

When you are confused, praise God for His wisdom.

When you are discouraged by the sinfulness of your children . . . and of yourself . . . praise God for His mercy.

When you are worried and afraid, praise God for His faithfulness.

When you lose your temper with your children—for the third time today—praise God for His patience.

When you feel unlovable, praise God for His love.

When you are overwhelmed, praise God for His sovereignty.

Praising God in the hard times shows that we trust Him. Praising God in the good times shows that we acknowledge Him as the source of all our blessings.

May we say with the hymn writer:

This is my story, this is my song,

       Praising my Savior all the day long.