2015. A number that brings with it a lot of focus on other numbers that are important to us. This is a time we make resolutions to change the math of our lives. We use many numbers to determine how we feel about ourselves. How fast we run a mile (or 5), the amount in our bank account, how many ounces of breast milk we produce, how many hours we work in a week, our GPA (or the GPAs of our kids), the square footage of our house, our volunteer hours, the number of events we’re invited to, or the number of Bible verses we memorize can all be numbers we use to evaluate how much our lives matter. In a season of resolutions it can be easy to focus on changing our numbers with the conscious or subconscious belief that those numbers are what’s really important— that we ARE our numbers.

As a mom with a new baby, that number on the scale has become pretty important to me. It’s a temptation for me to see the numbers not as just an indicator of my current weight, but as a judgement on my work ethic or my discipline or my beauty. And then there’s the other scale. The scale at my pediatrician’s office that seems to indicate if I’m a good mom. Is my baby gaining weight like the doctor thinks he should? Am I somehow failing at motherhood if he doesn’t conform to the growth curve?

What about the social math of our lives? Do we judge our worth by our number of friends or the likes and shares of the things we put out for the world to see? Do I compulsively check to see if I am a person of value as reported by the circle of people I’ve chosen? The struggles for acceptance and approval we thought would disappear when we packed away our high school yearbooks have returned as we strive to find meaning in our lives by being important to the people we think are silently judging our success.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

I am never just a compilation of my statistics. Changing the external math of my life rarely seems to change the person I am inside. And the process is never-ending. What starts as a desire to lose ten pounds turns into a quest for an unobtainable perfect body when I realize I don’t feel any better about myself when I’m ten pounds lighter. The desire to have more friends and be invited to more events is a monster I can’t control when I realize there will always be someone more popular or involved or loved than I am.

It’s good to be healthy and treat our bodies with respect. It’s good to have friends and be involved in a community we can serve and that blesses us, too. Being a wise steward of our money, our time, our talents is an important job we are given. But the moment they become an idol or the only way we define ourselves, we will be disappointed. Is it possible that instead of focusing on merely changing the outward appearance and trying to calculate our personal worth based on the math of our lives, we can make a resolution for a different kind of change? A heart change.

This year I want to think about the numbers that really matter to me. The numbers that represent my heart.

adoption photo
All photos by Love Equals Photography

1 husband— the one who loves me above himself and cares about my good. I need to prioritize our relationship and the work it takes to keep us unified and healthy. I need to actively pursue his heart and make myself vulnerable even when it feels difficult or scary. 

A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.

Proverbs 12:4

6 children— the lives I need to invest in daily as I raise kids who I hope will love others, be responsible, and serve God. What will all the social admiration gain me if I lose the hearts of my kids? I need to be intentional about creating a home where they can thrive and can go confidently into a hostile world because they know how deeply they are loved. If they choose to reject the values I teach them, it will not be because they weren’t clearly explained and modeled in our home.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

4,000 foster kids— the number of kids in the state of Nebraska that need an advocate. Helping them in whatever way I can is my passion. We all need something outside of ourselves that keeps us from becoming entirely self focused (or even home focused).

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:26-27

These are the numbers that do in some way define me. They keep me grounded when the other math around me changes. They remind me of my purpose in life and keep me focused on the goals God has for me.

For each of us the numbers will be different, but what matters is that we try to see our lives as God sees them. We don’t base our value on the outside appearance, but on the heart. We need to accurately see our struggles and our gifts and reorient our lives to reflect the priorities of God.

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids. Four were adopted (one internationally, three through foster care) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.